Team Canada’s tear through the 2013 World Junior Tournament continued with their best game so far, a 4-1 win over the host Team Russia. For the first time, Canada had their full roster with Boone Jenner back in after serving a three-game suspension and his presence was well felt in all ends of the ice. Malcolm Subban continued after his “player of the game” worthy performance against the US with another stellar game. And Jonathan Drouin moved from the second to first line, swapping spots with Jonathan Huberdeau, a surprise move that proved to be key to Canada’s win. You can read my full breakdown of the game after the jump.
First Period: The game opened as everyone expected, with both teams playing fast and aggressive, trying to get the upper hand early. There weren’t many whistles in the opening 10 minutes, but there were lots of scoring chances. Both teams were waiting for the other to break and with eight minutes to go, Russia did. Valeri Nichushkin, a 2013 top-prospect, hit defenceman Tyler Wotherspoon hard from behind, resulting in a five-minute major and a game misconduct. Canada finally had their chance and they capitalized on it twice.
The first goal came from Dougie Hamilton, who one-timed a pass from Ryan Nugent-Hopkins that beat the Russian goalie Andrei Makarov high on the blocker side. Canada moved the puck well on the powerplay (something they didn’t do against the Americans) and it paid off on that goal. The second goal was not as pretty, but it was just as effective. Mark Schiefele picked up a rebound from a Huberdeau shot and made no mistake putting it it. RNH also picked up an assist on the goal, his second of the game. With under five minutes to play, Canada had secured a 2-0 lead and was in command. Penalties had cost the Russians again and Canada took advantage of it.
But the period didn’t end there. In a rare breakdown, Schiefele had the puck poked off his stick and into the slot. Nikita Kucherov picked the puck up and fired a wrist-shot that beat Subban high to bring the Russians within one. The Canadians didn’t panic though and continued to pressure the Russians, drawing a penalty late and still in control of the game as it went into the intermission.
Second Period: From there, it was all Canada again. They didn’t capitalize on the powerplay but kept the Russians pinned in their zone for a few minutes after it was killed. Hopkins, Schiefele and Drouin proved to be as strong a line as when Huberdeau was on it, getting tons of scoring chances throughout the period. Boone Jenner and the third line also were aggressive, banging the Russians around while also getting chances. When Nathan MacKinnon was in the box for his first of two minors, Jenner pinned the puck behind the Russian goal for 30 seconds and it took three Russian players to get it away from him. Canada has one of the deepest rosters in the tournament and everyone was contributing today.
It all paid off about six minutes into the period when RNH fired a puck on goal and Drouin picked up the rebound. Moving quickly, he wrapped the puck around to the far side of the goal and tucked it in, giving Canada the 3-1 lead. It was fitting that Drouin should get it after he was promoted before the game and was already having a great game. And it was Hopkins third assist, which brought his tournament leading point total to 11. The Russians continued to take penalties and let Canada operate in the offensive zone. But when the Russians did get chances, Subban was there to shut the door, sticking his pad out and controlling rebounds. Canada went into the intermission with a 3-1 lead but no one would say the game was over yet. Russia was to good of a team to go down without a fight.
Third Period: The third period was full of back and forth, aggressive but disciplined hockey. Both teams wanted to win and secure the bye to the semi-finals. But the Russians looked slightly unorganized. Their stars, Khokhlachyov, Grigorenko and Yakupov all would lead a rush without making passes, trying to be the hero. This made it easy for Canada to defend, with Scott Harrington, Hamilton and Xavier Oullet all having no problem poking the puck away. Canada kept playing their game, getting chances and pressuring the Russians into turnovers. Huberdeau capped the scoring off with a long, late empty-net goal to make the score 4-1. Canada completed its best game of the tournament with authority and moved on to the semi-finals.
The quarter-final games are on January 2, with Russia playing Switzerland and the Americans playing the Czech Republic. Canada’s next game is January 3rd against the winner of the Czech/ USA game, with the berth in the finals on the line.