You’d have to be a bit of a chauvinist to say you’re disappointed with Canada’s performance at the World Junior Championship on Friday.
Not only does Sweden have more seasoned training, but it also benefits from the size of the Olympic rink and local support.
Without much surprise, the Swedes won 2-0, to bring their record in the tournament to three victories in as many matches. They still haven’t allowed a goal.
Sweden has a great vintage this year. Fifteen of its players won the 2022 World Under-18 Championship together, beating the Americans in the final.
Canada finished fifth that year. Moreover, only one player belonging to this Canadian under-18 team is playing in the World Junior Championship, Matthew Wood… as the 13th attacker.
Sweden has nine first-round picks, compared to Canada’s eight, but eight players from the Swedish junior team played in the tournament last year, compared to only one for Canada, and again, the Canadian’s prospect, Owen Beck , had been recalled in a hurry at the end of the competition to replace an injured man and had played only three matches. Ten players from the Canadian team are having their first experience at the international level with Canada, probably never seen before in a tournament of this scale.
Canada started the match strongly, thanks to a sustained and aggressive forecheck, but once the storm passed, Sweden took control of the match.
Jordan Dumais was in trouble at the start of the second period in defensive territory, his teammate Matthew Poitras, already in the NHL, did not help him with a soft play along the boards, and it was 1-0 Sweden on a precise shot by defenseman Tom Willander, first round pick of the Vancouver Canucks, 11th overall in 2023, and teammate of Lane Hutson at Boston University.
Noah Östlund, the Buffalo Sabers’ 2022 first-round pick, 16th overall, scored the insurance goal, well posted in front of the net, nine minutes later. Östlund was undoubtedly the best in his camp. He played 19:55, a high among the team’s forwards. Only defender Elias Pettersson was used more.
However, this is not a dramatic defeat for Canada. With one match remaining, against Germany, the Canadians are guaranteed to advance to the elimination round and, barring an unexpected defeat, will finish second in Group A.
After a modest start to the tournament against second-rate teams, Canadian defender and hopeful Lane Hutson stood up against the Czech Republic on Friday, before the meeting between Canada and Sweden.
The Americans won 4-3 in a shootout, and Hutson set up the tying goal by carrying the puck into the opposing zone before handing it to teammate Ryan Chesley in the slot.
Hutson, a late second-round pick in 2022, was more incisive offensively, and impeccable defensively, both at five-on-five and in the first wave of penalty kill. He played 26:16, obviously a record for the Americans.
Another Canadian hope, goalkeeper Jacob Fowler, was not perfect, but uncompromising after allowing the third goal to the Czechs. He made an important save during an opposing breakaway in the third period and stopped six of his seven opponents in the shootout.
Canada’s next game is Sunday against Germany at 1:30 p.m. ET. The United States will face the tough Slovaks and Filip Mesar of the Canadian, also on December 31, but at dawn (Montreal time).