MANTHA GETS HAT TRICK AS CANADA TOPS GERMANY 7-2 TO OPEN WORLD JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIP
THE CANADIAN PRESS
MALMÖ, Sweden – Anthony Mantha (Longueuil, Que./Val-d'Or, LHJMQ) looked more relieved than jubilant after his three goals helped Canada start the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship with a victory.
It may be because there had been doubts Mantha would make the team – despite lighting up the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League this season – because of his questionable defensive play.
No one doubted his ability to put the puck in the net, as Mantha demonstrated with a hat trick in Canada's 7-2 win over Germany on Thursday.
“It's a great feeling,” the lanky, six-foot-four right winger said. “For me, personally, I had to get a big game going and I think that's what I did.”
It helped that Mantha was on a line with perhaps Canada's most dynamic playmaker in Jonathan Drouin (Huberdeau, Que./Halifax, QMJHL), who assisted on all three of his goals – two on power plays and one at even strength.
But Mantha, the grandson of former NHL forward Andre Pronovost, scores wherever he plays.
He had 35 goals in only 32 games with the Val-d'Or Foreurs before joining Team Canada two weeks ago for the run-up to the world juniors. He has 85 goals in 99 games over the last season and a half.
Coach Brent Sutter said what clinched his spot was that ability to put the puck in the net, which there is not a lot of on this squad compared to past world junior teams. Sutter hopes a crash course in 200-foot hockey will make the Detroit Red Wings prospect a more complete player as the tournament goes on.
“He can score goals, but there are other aspects of his game he needs to continue to work on,” said Sutter. “Things I've talked to him about one on one.
Mantha has a remarkably quick release for a big man, and having the clever Drouin laying passes on his stick could be a vital asset as the tournament moves on and the competition gets tougher.
The Canadian team got a rousing welcome from the crowd of 1,831 – nearly all wearing Hockey Canada jerseys – at the 5,800-seat Isstadion, but still looked nervous as the game began.
The Germans got the opening goal off a faceoff in the Canada zone as Dorian Saeftel put a shot through traffic that fooled goalie Jake Paterson (Mississauga, Ont./Saginaw, OHL) only 1:35 into the game.
After Josh Anderson (Burlington, Ont./London, OHL) and Mantha gave Canada a lead, Janik Moser tied it for Germany after defenceman Adam Pelech (Toronto, Ont./Erie, OHL) whiffed on a clearing attempt.
Then Canada took over as Mantha and Bo Horvat (Rodney, Ont./London, OHL) got goals before the intermission, Sam Reinhart (West Vancouver, B.C./Kootenay, WHL) and Mantha added goals in the second period and Nic Petan (Delta, B.C./Portland, WHL) finished a play engineered by 16-year-old Connor McDavid (Newmarket, Ont./Erie, OHL) in the third.
A tougher test comes Saturday when Canada plays its second group stage game against the Czech Republic.