Canada Stumbles Out of the Gate at the World Juniors

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For many Canadians, the World Junior Hockey Championship has become a big part of their annual holiday traditions.

As the 2023 tournament opened on Monday in Moncton and Halifax, Team Canada was still in holiday mode, filled with the spirit of giving.

Our national squad gave up 5 goals on the first 17 shots on the way to a 5-2 loss to Czechia. They gave up too many chances and too many power plays as well.

At almost every international hockey tournament in the past 50 years, there’s eventually some strong, lively discussion about the drastically different officiating standard in international hockey. And yet, somehow, it always seems to catch Canada off guard.

With the Czechs leading 3-2 in the second period, Canada’s Zach Dean got five and a game for a hit to the head of Ales Cech. In the NHL or Canadian major junior hockey, it might not have even been a penalty. But the IIHF has different standards and everyone who’s ever thrown on the blades should know that by now.

Needless penalties – 200 feet away from Canada’s net – are bad enough. Taking a major penalty in a one goal game that leads directly to two power play goals leads to both negative headlines and receding hairlines.

In all, Canada spent a quarter of the game in the penalty box, where game momentum generally goes to die. Combine that with below average goaltending and leaky defensive zone coverage and the result becomes a little less shocking. With two Michigan attempts in the game, one might even question if the star players were thinking as much about the game as they were the big stage and the media spotlight.

Canada hadn’t lost to the Czechs in nine years and the 5 goals in a game was the most we’ve ever given up to them in this tourney.

We now face Germany on Wednesday, Austria on Thursday, and then wrap up the preliminary round on Friday night against Sweden. Only one of the 5 teams in each division will be eliminated, so there’s still plenty of time for Canada to figure themselves out before Monday’s quarterfinals.

Teenage hockey stars, with their big social media followings, can sometimes be a distractible bunch and they definitely don’t lack confidence in their abilities or what works for them. So it’s not always easy for coaches to get their attention. One suspects now, that after an opening night performance like that, our Canadian boys will be much better listeners from here on out.

By Steve Warne | Faces Magazine

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