The IIHF World Juniors has started and I don’t know about you, but the country of Canada couldn’t be happier. I’m going to be honest, I have not watched a second of the pre-tournament play, but once that first round robin game began on Boxing Day, like the rest of the nation, I was glued to my TV. A group of unproven top NHL prospects given a chance to wear the “Red and White” and showcase their talents to an entire country. There’s nothing that brings Canada together like international sporting events, especially if they include the sport of hockey. And this years tournament takes place on home soil in beautiful Buffalo, New York…Okay, it’s just Buffalo but we treat it like our home turf because when Canada is playing, you can bet the building will be swarming with the Maple Leaf. Canada is an astounding 16 for 17 in the medal column when the World Juniors plays in North America with 8 of those medals being Gold.
For me and I assume most others, the start of the tournament can be a confusing time, I am very unfamiliar with the names and faces of the players on Canada’s roster. Besides returning members like Hart, Dube and Raddysh, there is really no players that catch my eye immediately. But as the tournament presses forward the names that were once unrecognizable will become household favourites. These could become the names that will stick in your mind as the heroes of Canada’s history at the World Juniors. Jordan Ederle. John Tavares. Max Domi. Connor McDavid to name a few.
Canada began the tournament facing off against Finland, which in past years has proven to be a complete wild card. After completing the home ice Cinderella story in 2016, with the wrap around goal by Toronto Maple Leafs very own Kasperi Kapanen, to capture the gold and the hearts of their fans, The Finns finished a disappointing 9th place in last year’s tournament.
After firing their coach half way through the 2017 Championship the Finns had high hopes for themselves and their program going into this year’s tournament. But they were matched up with a highly skilled Canadian Team that didn’t show any sign of the first game jitters. Canada opened the scoring with a slightly controversial goal by Boris Katchouk as he came in on a terrific solo effort and saw the puck cross the line before crashing hard into the net and knocking it off the pegs. Just 27 seconds later, Canada’s Sam Steel made it 2-0 on the power play after a terrible retaliation slashing penalty by the Finnish captain on coincidentally, Katchouk. From there, it was smooth sailing for the Canadian Boys as they cruised to a 4-2 victory, backed by Hart’s 29 saves.
But I think the most ‘Alpha’ play of the day goes to Carter Hart, who made sure he was the last player to leave the ice after warm ups, as he waited out the Finnish goalie while he got his final tweaks in.
It’s time for Canada to start a new streak at the World Juniors like the one they held from 2005-2009 when they were virtually unstoppable.