GAME NOTES: CANADA VS. CZECHIA (DEC. 26)
With a perfect pre-tournament round in the rear-view mirror,
Canada’s National Junior Team opens Group A play at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship against
Canada finished a 3-0 exhibition slate on Friday night in Halifax,
beating Finland 5-3. Connor Bedard dazzled again – the 17-year-old from North Vancouver, B.C.,
had two goals, including the game-winner. Brennan Othmann had a goal and an
assist, while Olen Zellweger and Shane Wright had two helpers apiece for
Canada, which outshot the Finns 44-22.
Czechia finished its pre-tournament schedule on Thursday in Halifax,
falling 4-2 to Switzerland. Jiri Kulich and Eduard Sale scored in the third period to cut a
three-goal deficit to one, but the Czechs couldn’t find the equalizer.
The teams last met in the semifinals of the 2022 World Juniors in Edmonton,
a 5-2 win for Canada. Bedard, Kent Johnson, Logan Stankoven, Mason McTavish and Joshua Roy
provided the offence for the Canadians, who opened up a 4-0 lead through
two periods. Dylan Garand made 30 saves, 16 of them in the second period.
WHAT TO WATCH
While the power play will drive a lot of the offence for Canada – it went
7-for-18 in the pre-tournament – Canada’s biggest strength just might be
its depth, especially up front. Twelve of the 13 Canadian forwards recorded
points in exhibition play (only Reid Schaefer was held off the scoresheet).
The projected top line of Bedard, Othmann and Wright combining for 17
points in three games, but scoring is going to come from all four lines for
The Czechs have a whopping 16 players back from the team that reached the
bronze medal game in Edmonton, but it’s a player who wasn’t among that
group – 17-year-old Eduard Sale – who will get most of the headlines. Sale,
who is playing in the Czech Extraliga this season, is a projected top-five
pick in the 2023 NHL Draft – he was as high as No. 2 in late September on
Craig’s List, the ranking from TSN scouting director Craig Button.
A LOOK BACK
Canada and Czechia (formerly the Czech Republic) have met 23 times at the
World Juniors since the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993. The
Canadians have dropped just one of those games, a shootout setback in the
preliminary round in 2013.
The teams are familiar foes in recent years. In addition to the semifinal
matchup last summer, they also met in the preliminary round ( a 5-1 Canada win), in the prelims of the cancelled 2022 tournament (a 6-3 Canada win) and
the quarterfinals of the 2021 World Juniors in the bubble in Edmonton (
a 3-0 Canada win).
All-time record: Canada leads 20-1-2 (0-1 in OT/SO)
Canada goals: 113
Czechia goals: 38