USA Rallies, Canada Rolls in World Junior Openers
One of those surprisingly competitive teams was not Latvia. Their tournament opener was a complete disaster, as they lost to five-time defending gold medalist Canada 16-0. Yes, 16-0. It doesn't appear that the Latvian team will be around when the gold medal is decided.
Canada 16, Latvia 0
Host Canada jumped on the overmatched Latvian team from the start, netting five goals in the first -- the first coming just 36 seconds into the game -- and not giving Latvia anything that even remotely resembled consistent offensive pressure.
Gabriel Bourque (NHL rights: Nashville) tied a Team Canada record with seven points (three goals, four assists), as the Canadians set a record for their largest margin of victory in a shutout. Linemates Brandon Kozun (Los Angeles) and Patrice Cormier (New Jersey) combined for nine points in the game.
Oh, and that's supposed to be Canada's checking line. Good luck with that, Group A.
Canada outshot Latvia 67-10, and it could be argued they worked harder as the game wore on, and Latvia wore down. They obviously smelled blood, but it was kind of embarrassing to watch the way they played late in the game. At times, it looked like they were desperately trying to tie the score. While that kind of work ethic should help them in the tournament, it seemed a bit excessive to see guys driving the net up 13-0.
If you want to guy into the "goal differential counts" argument, that's perfectly okay. But it's hard to imagine that the last two goals in a 16-0 game will make a difference in anything but individual statistics.
There will be much bigger tests for Canada, but they've shown nothing so far that indicates they will slow down. They're fast, skilled, smart, and they have great chemistry.
United States 7, Slovakia 3
Last year, the Americans' run in the World Juniors ended with a shocking quarterfinal loss to Slovakia. Early in Saturday's game, it looked like Slovakia was going to do it to the Americans again.
A five-minute major penalty on Team USA was quickly followed by a Slovak goal to open the scoring. While on a five-on-three later in the major power play, Slovakia got a rebound goal past United States goaltender Mike Lee (Phoenix) to go up 2-0.
However, it proved to be nothing more than a bump in the road.
The Americans scored four times in the second period, then tacked on more in the third period, outscoring Slovakia 6-1 after the early hiccup. Team captain Derek Stepan (N.Y. Rangers) scored once and added two assists, and seven different Americans scored.
Oddly, an officiating mistake may have helped Team USA with their comeback. Jason Zucker (2010 draft eligible) was responsible for the high-stick that drew the early major penalty, but it was Tyler Johnson (undrafted) who was sent off by the officials. Zucker stayed in the game throughout, playing a physical style and having a good night, even though he didn't register on the score sheet. While Johnson is a good player, he's a smaller guy who wouldn't have made the same impact, especially coming off a concussion he suffered not too long ago.
Sweden 10, Czech Republic 1
After the Czechs were competitive against Canada and beat the United States in pre-tournament exhibitions, the thinking was they could have a good tournament.
One game cannot be used to make the final judgment, but they sure didn't get off to a good start.
Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson (Edmonton) led the way for Sweden, scoring once and tacking on four assists. Tim Erixon (Calgary) added three points (one goal, two assists).
Russia 6, Austria 2
Austria fell behind early, and any thought of an upset died off. Russia scored four goals on eleven shots in the first period, then cruised to a rather easy win.
Maxim Trunev (Montreal) put Russia out in front less than two minutes in. Yevgeni Kuznetsov (2010 draft eligible) scored twice for Russia, which outshot Austria 33-16.
The Russians are still expected to challenge Sweden in Group B.
Sunday's Schedule (All Times Eastern)
United States vs. Switzerland, 4:00
Slovakia vs. Latvia, 8:00
Austria vs. Sweden, 2:00
Czech Republic vs. Finland, 6:00