Philip Tomasino (Mississauga, Ont./Oshawa, OHL) scored the game-winning goal with less than four minutes left and added an assist for good measure, helping Canada’s National Junior Team edge Slovakia 3-1 on Sunday night at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship.
One night after scoring 16 goals in a tournament-opening victory over Germany – equalling the second-most ever – offence was much harder to come by for the Canadians, who managed only 23 shots on goal.
Despite the significant reduction in output, head coach André Tourigny (Nicolet, Que./Ottawa, OHL) thought the effort from his team was the best he has seen.
“I was really happy with our performance,” Tourigny said. “You cannot always look at the score to evaluate the performance. I think offensively we did a lot of good things and intensity-wise we did a lot of good things. We can improve a few things by moving the puck quicker and keeping it simple, but I like a lot of stuff we did tonight.
“It was a rock-solid win and a lot like the [pre-tournament] win against Russia.”
Jordan Spence (Cornwall, P.E.I./Moncton, LHJMQ) and Jack Quinn (Cobden, Ont./Ottawa, OHL) joined Tomasino on the scoresheet.
Early on, it looked as if the offensive momentum would carry over; Spence, who drew into the line-up after being scratched on Saturday, jumped all over a juicy Tomasino rebound in the high slot and hammered in the 1-0 goal only 4:08 in.
But that would be it for scoring for more than 52 minutes as both teams settled into what became a mixture of good defence and missed offensive opportunities.
Slovakian goaltender Samuel Hlavaj certainly did his part. Appearing in his 10th game at the World Juniors across three tournaments, Hlavaj looked calm and cool keeping a line-up that included 17 first-round NHL draft picks in check.
Devon Levi (Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Que./Northeastern University, HE), playing on his 19th birthday, kept up his run of strong play with 17 saves in the Canadian goal, none better than a point-blank pad stop off Juraj Slafkovsky in the final seconds of the second period.
“Just being here is the best birthday present ever,” Levi said, “and getting the win is even better.”
Levi faced just eight shots through the first 40 minutes, but had to be sharp in the third period as Slovakia pushed to tie the game.
“It’s a different game,” he said of facing long stretches of inaction. “It’s harder mentally. You’re not moving as much and it’s hard to stay in the game, but I went through a lot of games like this last year [with the Carleton Place Canadians]. I was focused and ready to do what we accomplished tonight.”
Connor McMichael (Ajax, Ont./London, OHL) had a glorious chance to make it a two-goal game early in the third, sneaking behind the defence and going between his legs, but Hlavaj got his right arm on the shot.
Tomasino – who only skated 8:48 in the game, the least of any Canadian forward – finally added insurance with 3:35 to go. After a turnover in the Canadian zone, Dylan Cozens (Whitehorse, Y.T./Lethbridge, WHL) sprung Tomasino, who beat Hlavaj upstairs over the glove to make it 2-0.
That goal stood up as the game-winner after Martin Chromiak finally beat Levi on a Slovakian power play at 18:36, stepping in and wiring a shot past the glove of the Canadian netminder.
Quinn scored into the empty net with 30 seconds left to finish the scoring.
“I think [Dylan Cozens] was really solid for us today on the bench. It was not an easy situation with the score of the game and the momentum of the game. We played really well but we could not get anything going offensively, and there were some emotions on the bench. Dylan stayed cool and calm; his presence was really great and that translated well to his teammates.
[Bowen Byram] was the same. Bo is the energy guy. He works, he competes and wants to do great. He has a smile all the time and brings a lot of energy to his teammates. It seems there is no bad day in Bo Byram’s life.”
- Head coach André Tourigny (Nicolet, Que./Ottawa, OHL) on the leadership of Dylan Cozens (Whitehorse, Y.T./Lethbridge, WHL) and Bowen Byram (Cranbrook, B.C./Vancouver, WHL)
“It’s unfortunate for [Braden] Schneider getting suspended, but this morning I was at the morning skate and I just wanted to get my mind into it as if I was playing. This afternoon I got the call I was going to be in the line-up, then they put me on, there was a loose puck there and I scored. There was a lot of emotions going on, just being scratched last game to coming back the next day, playing and scoring. It’s amazing but I’m just more happy about us winning the game.”
- Spence on getting his first goal at the 2021 World Juniors
“It was definitely not easy to only face eight shots in the first two periods and then come into a lot of shots [in the third period], but it was a good challenge. It was a good game, a fun game and a tight game, and being a 1-0 game I just stayed focused. I didn’t really [focus on] the score, but it was my focus and concentrating on the next shot that helped me stay hot.”
- Levi on staying focused despite facing limited shots in the first two periods
After an off-day Monday, Canada is back on the ice Tuesday night against Switzerland (6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT).