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WJC Roundup: Canada, USA, Sweden, Finland Take Opening Day Victories

The 2022 World Junior Championship kicked off on Sunday with all the top favorites coming away with wins in Edmonton and Red Deer.
2022 IIHF WJC

Canada Avoids Scare to Stop Czechs

It was a lot closer than most likely expected, but Canada managed to erase a 3-1 deficit to win 6-3 over Czechia to finish the day in Edmonton.

Owen Power was the highlight of the game, becoming the first Canadian defender to record a hat-trick after doing so through 30:15 of play. The Buffalo Sabres prospect skipped the tournament last year due to travel concerns, but is expected to play a crucial role throughout the 2022 edition.

Canada came out hot right out of the gate, scoring at 4:00 to open things up. Mason McTavish, who started the season with the Anaheim Ducks, put it past Jakub Malek after getting the puck around the net, skating around the zone, making moves past multiple Czechs before snapping a quick one up high. 

Czechia, though, would answer back at 7:42 when Michal Gut completed a 2-on-1 goal with a feed from Jakub Brabenec into a seemingly open crease. The play originally continued as if the puck didn't cross the line, but further review showed it going in and out quickly for the 1-1 marker.

Adversity quickly set in for the Canadians. After not trailing until the final game of the 2021 tournament, a penalty for Xavier Bourgault led to Pavel Novak scoring from the point on the man advantage to make it 2-1. Less than a minute later, defenseman Stanislav Svozil, who failed to score in 26 WHL games before leaving for the tournament, put the puck between his legs and beat Olen Zellweger before getting the disk past Dylan Garand for the 3-1 lead. 

Canada needed change and called a timeout, and it worked. Just 23 seconds after allowing the Svozil goal, Power's wrist shot beat Malek, who was just recovering from getting knocked by Cole Perfetti. At 19:31, Perfetti then sent a saucer pass to a streaking Donovan Sebrango, who scored his first goal since an early season stint in Slovakia's second league last year to tie it up at three goals apiece.

The second period was a disaster for the Czechs, who took just shots and was down two men for an extended period of time early in the third. Power scored twice on the power play to put Canada out of reach with half the game to go and Olen Zellweger scored late in the third to cap off the 6-3, with five of Canada's six goals coming from blueliners.

USA Edges Slovakia 3-2

USA avoided a late-game charge from a plucky Slovak team to win 3-2 on Sunday to finish the day in Red Deer.

Despite getting outshot 9-8 in the opening period, it was clear the Americans were the better team out of the gate. The Americans took multiple penalties that contributed to Slovakia's high shot count early, but it was an American power play that turned the scoreboard on. Matthew Knies scored on the two-man advantage at 13:35, only to have Mackie Samoskevich unleash a wrister less than two minutes later to finish off the second penalty. 

Slovakia looked disjointed in the second, getting outshot 13-7 in the first half of the middle stanza. At 32:42, Landon Slaggert knocked in a Wyatt Kaiser rebound to make it 3-0 USA. The Americans outshot Slovakia 23-2, and while that's an ugly number for the Slovaks, Simon Latkoczy had a tremendous period with just the one goal allowed.

Slovakia started stronger in the third, and it paid off early. At 41:03 on the power play, Martin Chromiak finished off a passing play between him, Matej Kaslik and Samuel Knazko to make it 3-1 and give his team some life. The Slovaks outshot USA in the first 10 minutes of the third with a 6-3 advantage, and nearly scored with just over eight minutes left to go to boot. Dalibor Dvorsky knocked the puck past Commesso, but the goal was waved off because the goal was high-sticked. Things looked up with under two minutes to go when Chromiak scored his second of the game to force a late charge, but the Slovaks couldn't get anything on a final flurry and USA held on for the win.

Sweden Take Commanding Win Over Russia

Russia's defensive issues plagued them in its opening game on Sunday, falling 6-3 to Sweden in a battle of two Group B heavyweights.

Sweden had control of the game for the most part, minus an early third-period collapse that gave Russia an opportunity to potentially force overtime.

The opening frame had good pace, but just 10 shots to show for. At 5:24 on the man advantage, the Swedes struck first when Oskar Olausson used a William Eklund screen in front to beat Yaroslav Askarov with a wrist shot. 

The second period saw a lot more offense, with Sweden escaping with a 3-1 advantage. Big defenseman Simon Edvinsson scored a shorthanded goal at 27:39 after picking the puck up along the boards following a bad Russian line change to double the advantage. At 34:16, Emil Andrae's wrister from the point beat Askarov uncontested while the Russian netminder was screened by Ake Stakkestad to put Sweden up by three.

But Russia wouldn't leave for the intermission without something to cheer for. After everything looked to be going wrong, Fyodor Svechkov banked a shot off of Edminsson's right leg and past Jesper Wallstedt for the 3-1 goal.

The Russians needed to do something to shake things up and pulled Askarov in favor of Yegor Guskov to start the third. The change didn't matter in the short term as a pair of early penalties gave Russia a two-man advantage. Alexander Holtz scored with both still in the box off of an Eklund feed at 43:26 to restore Sweden's lead. Matvei Michkov, the 2023 NHL draft phenom, made things interesting with a pair of goals 39 seconds apart. His first goal saw him get shoved by a Swedish defender into Wallstedt, only to score from behind the net shortly after to cut Sweden's lead to one. 

But Russia's defense was a bit of a disaster, allowing Theodor Niederbach and Daniel Torgensson to get a quality scoring chance. Niederbach got the puck between Guskov's legs and in for the back-breaking goal, only to have Daniel Ljungman get another goal to close out the game on an empty-netter. 

Finland Wins Opener in Tight Battle Over Germany

Finland kicked off the action in Edmonton with a tight 3-1 victory over Germany -- but it was definitely closer than the Finns were hoping for.

Finland, one of the favorites in Group A, scored a goal per period in the win, but the Germans managed to outshoot the Finns 24-22 thanks to a flurry of late-game opportunities. 

Brad Lambert, one of Finland's top players and expected to go early in the 2022 NHL draft, got the game moving at the 12:52 mark. After German netminder Nikita Quapp made a couple of strong saves in the opening minutes, he allowed a tough one after Lambert's shot went off a German defender in front and re-directed in. The goal was later attributed to Samuel Helenius after the IIHF reviewed the play, saying it tipped off the big Finnish forward and in.

The Germans, however, would answer back early in the second. Less than a minute after leaving the box with a penalty, Edmonton Oilers defender Luca Munzenberger beat Leevi Merilainen low glove to knot the contest at one apiece. The tie wouldn't last long as just four minutes later, Joel Maatta got the puck after the puck deflected off a player in front and beat a diving Quapp for the go-ahead goal. Helenius scored the lone goal of the third period to cap off the game, a 3-1 final score.

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Three Stars

1. Owen Power, D (CAN): Being the first Canadian defenseman to get a hat-trick makes it pretty easy to land on this list.

2. Simon Edvinsson, D (SWE): A breakaway goal, two assists and he even banked one in on his own net. Edvinsson was busy for the Swedes and a pain in the you-know-what for the Russians.

3.  Samuel Helenius, F (FIN): Two goals and a timely save in the third period made Helenius' effort valuable when it mattered.

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Dec. 27 Schedule

Finland vs. Austria - 2:00 PM ET
Russia vs. Switzerland - 4:30 PM ET
Germany vs. Czech Republic - 7:00 PM ET
Sweden vs. Slovakia - 9:30 PM ET

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