It’s on to the playoff round at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship for Canada’s National Junior Team, which looks to build on its perfect preliminary round in a quarterfinal match-up against the Czech Republic.
Canada put together its most complete performance of the tournament on Thursday night, earning in a 4-1 win over Finland that clinched first place in Group A. Dylan Cozens opened and closed the scoring, Dylan Holloway and Peyton Krebs added goals and the Canadians smothered the Finns in the first 40 minutes, allowing just a single shot on goal in the first period and seven through two.
The Czechs confirmed their place in the quarters with a resounding 7-0 win over Austria in their prelim finale on Thursday afternoon. They took over after a scoreless opening period, outshooting the Austrians 46-9 over the final two. Martin Lang led the way with two goals and an assist, Pavel Novak added a goal and two helpers and Nick Malik made 15 saves for the shutout.
The Canadians and the host Czechs closed out 2019 with a New Year’s Eve showdown a year ago in Ostrava. The game was all about the Canadian power play, which set a team record by connecting four times in the first period – from Joe Veleno, Nolan Foote, Barrett Hayton and Connor McMichael – and five times overall in a 7-2 win. Hayton and Cozens finished with a goal and three assists apiece in the victory.
WHAT TO WATCH
It may be time to start recognizing Dylan Cozens as one of Canada’s all-time World Juniors greats. The Whitehorse product added a pair of goals to his total on Thursday night, giving him 11 points in four games in Edmonton, and 20 points in 11 games across a pair of tournaments. That pulls him even with John Tavares for sixth in all-time Canadian scoring – he is four points back of Jason Allison for fifth, and with potentially three games left, is within striking distance of fourth-place Ryan Ellis (25), and Jordan Eberle and Brayden Schenn, who are tied for second with 26. It would take a titanic playoff effort to catch Eric Lindros, who posted 31 points in three appearances from 1990-92.
The Czechs are struggling to produce offence; outside of their 7-0 romp over Austria, they scored just three goals in their other three prelim games, although two of those came in an upset win over Russia. They also have the lowest-ranked power play of any of the playoff teams (14.3%) and sit even with Sweden for the lowest penalty-kill success rate (60%).
CANADA IN THE QUARTERFINALS
The Canadians will play a quarterfinal for the 16th time since the start of the group-stage format in 1996, although the pathway to get there has looked different over the years. Canada has won 12 of its first 15 match-ups in the final eight (or six, depending on the year), and has lost just once in regulation time – a 6-5 setback to Finland in 2016.
A LOOK BACK
Since the Czech Republic and Slovakia became separate entities beginning with the 1994 IIHF World Junior Championship, this has been a one-sided rivalry. The Canadians have lost just one of the 19 meetings (a 5-4 shootout defeat at the 2014 tournament), outscoring the Czechs 94-33 over that stretch. This will be the second quarterfinal meeting; Canada got two goals from Julien Gauthier in a 5-3 victory in 2017.
The Czechs spent the first 17 years of the tournament as part of Czechoslovakia; that head-to-head history was more evenly matched – Canada finished 4-6-6 (W-L-T) from 1977 to 1993.
All-time record: Canada leads 16-1-2
Canada goals: 94
Czech Republic goals: 33