Canada crush Austria at world juniors, next face Sweden
HALIFAX Connor Bedard continues to make history at the World Junior Hockey Championships.
Bedard had two goals and four assists in an 11-0 loss to Austria on Thursday as the 17-year-old phenom tied Jordan Eberle – a compatriot of Regina Pat – with his 14th goal at a World Juniors, the Canadian mark all time.
« That’s cool, but I’m not going to read too much into it, » Bedard said. « He’s also a former Pat, so this role is kind of fun that he played in the same junior organization as me. »
Bedard’s teammates had a big night: Logan Stankoven was named player of the game after a goal and three assists, Joshua Roy added a goal and two assists.
For Bedard and the rest of Team Canada, the tournament isn’t about scoring records, it’s about what’s next. And it’s Sweden on New Year’s Eve to conclude the preliminary round.
“That’s what we’re here for. That’s what makes us happy,” Bedard said. “From now on, it will be quite difficult. We have a huge game against Sweden for the classification and the playoffs from there. So we can’t wait. This is what you are looking forward to in this tournament, starting on New Year’s Eve. We are quite pumped.
The way things have gone considering Canada’s first loss to the Czechs, the best the Canadians can hope for is a second-place finish, requiring a regulation win over Sweden.
But it will be careful what you want for the type of game. It was a topsy-turvy tournament, with upheavals in both pools. Slovakia tends to become the champions of the Moncton group, which means Finland or the United States could be Canada’s playoff opponents.
Still, Bedard proves he’s an otherworldly talent, worthy of the hype that’s followed him since he was 14 and destined, it seems, to be the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NHL Draft. . A night after racking up seven points, Bedard exploded for six more.
“We have so many guys who are very special players,” Bedard said. “I don’t think about any of that stuff. I’m just here as one of the guys and always trying to contribute.
Bedard leads the tournament across the board in goals (six), assists (eight) and points (14) in three games.
« He’s phenomenal, » said center Adam Fantilli, likely the second pick in the draft who scored his first goal at the world junior championships. « What he’s done is so special, and the way he’s done it is amazing. We have absolutely nothing but smiles for him right now.
The story is in play the rest of the way. Bedard has 14 goals and 13 assists for 27 points within striking distance of setting Canadian records.
In addition to matching Eberle, who set the Canadian mark for the most career goals at the world junior championships (14 in two events), he is four points behind Eric Lindros, who holds the mark for the most career points (31 in three events), and he has seven assists. shy of Ryan Ellis, who holds the mark for most assists (20 over three events).
« He’s just on another world, » said Austrian coach Kirk Furey, a sight-happy Canadian. “Now that it’s done, I can say it was a pretty special moment to be behind the bench when he’s on the ice. For our players to experience it too, because they will never have that experience again.
Bedard still has a long way to go to grab Peter Forsberg’s record for all-time most points at the world junior championships. The Swede has amassed 42 in two appearances. He had 31 points in the 1993 single event, also representing an overall record for a tournament. Pavel Bure holds the career goalscoring record at 29. Forsberg holds the record for career assists at 32.
Attack was never going to be a problem, with players beyond the ultra-gifted Bedard also contributing. So the idea was for the Canadians to settle into their game. It’s more about goalkeeping, commitment to team play and discipline that is at the center of Dennis Williams’ coaching instructions.
« Every period we have to play the game well, » Williams said. “We have an opponent coming here (Sweden) who is very skilled, very talent-based. They play themselves with a lot of confidence. So it will be a good challenge for our group.
The Canadiens returned to goaltender Benjamin Gaudreau. He was withdrawn after allowing five goals in the opener against Czechia. Thomas Milic granted two against the Germans. Gaudreau has a longer history with the Hockey Canada program, having won Under-18 gold in 2021 with many of the same players.
Given that he was barely tested, it’s hard to say if Gaudreau had a good game, but he didn’t have a bad one by getting a shutout on 12 shots.
« He didn’t see a ton of shots, but we gave up our power plays late, » Williams said. “He had to make saves and so on. So every time you get a hit, you have to think it’s a solid performance.
The Austrians put 17-year-old goalkeeper Benedikt Oschgan in front of the net and held their breath. The start was a bit of a puzzle, a low energy start for the Canadian team which played Game 2 two nights in a row. It took eight minutes for Canada to register a shot on goal. At that time, the Austrians already had two. A low energy start. The energy in the building was lacking.
The puck wouldn’t go where the Canadians wanted it. He jumped over sticks, he got stuck between his feet, and a decent chance just widened. To the Austrians’ credit, they succeeded in disrupting the Canadian flow.
That all changed thanks to a few power plays, with Canada having a 3-0 lead after the first period and a 10-4 advantage on shots.
It was a mismatch from the start. The Austrians are here partly because the Russians are not. The Austrians had a player considered an NHL prospect, forward Vinzenz Rohrer, an unsigned third-round pick from the Montreal Canadiens. Scouts were also keeping a close eye on defenseman David Reinbacher, who plans to be a late first-round pick this summer.
But the team’s greatest hope is to avoid relegation. To do that, they need either a result on Friday against the Germans or a victory next week – probably against Latvia – in the best of three rounds of relegation.
If you want to imagine what it’s like to be Austria at the World Junior Hockey Championships, imagine what it’s like to be Canada at the Soccer World Cup. Wins and losses didn’t matter. Scoring a goal was a big deal. The Austrians have not yet done so.
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