The IIHF 2017 World Junior Championship saw Canada open the tournament with a 5-3 win over Russia on Monday night in Toronto.
Gathered at the Air Canada Centre where the host nation lifted the World Juniors title two years ago, the Canadian under-20 men’s hockey team’s quest for a 17th title is off to a flying start. Two goals from captain Dylan Strome and a three-point night from Mathew Barzal led the way on the score sheet.
Canada gave the home crowd what it wanted only three minutes and 11 seconds into the first period, when Tyson Jost beat Ilya Samsonov in the Russian goal. A patient Philippe Myers spotted Jost bearing down on goal to Samsonov’s left, the tape-to-tape pass followed by a backhand shot bulging the twine gave Canada the 1-0 lead. Dillon Dubé recorded a second assist on Jost’s tournament-opener for Canada.
With early momentum and one-way traffic, it seemed unlikely that Russia would answer soon, but a Canadian turnover followed by some determined puck possession by Denis Guryanov in the corner set up Mikhail Sergachyov for a clean look from the point at 9:47 of the first. The Russian defenceman flicked a hard wrist shot that beat Carter Hart under the blocker making it 1-1. It was just the second shot on goal for Russia in nearly 10 minutes of play.
Canada outshot Russia 12-5 in the first period as the two teams went into intermission all even on the scoreboard.
A close start to the second period soon gave way to renewed Canadian dominance just past the halfway mark. On the power play at 13:15 of the second, Strome put Canada back on top 2-1. The team captain slapped a pass from Barzal low and to a sprawling Samsonov’s left for the go-ahead marker. Thomas Chabot was awarded the second assist on the captain’s goal.
Less than four minutes later Nicolas Roy gave Canada some breathing room. After winning a battle along the boards and finding Julien Gauthier in the middle, Roy came back for the loose puck, outmuscling two Russian players before unleashing his shot past Samsonov to make it 3-1 Canada.
By second intermission Canada had outshot Russia 27-9 (15-4 in the second period) and what looked like it may be a close game at the end of the first became a distant memory.
At 3:03 of the third period Barzal scored his first of the game and tournament to go with his earlier assist for 4-1 to Canada. The power play goal – turned out to be the game winner – came after Sergei Zborovski took a tripping penalty, and Pierre-Luc Dubois found a falling Barzal to chip over Samsonov.
Russia refused to quit and saw an opening in the same minute as Barzal’s goal, when Jost went to the penalty box to leave Canada shorthanded. Kirill Kaprizov capitalized on the power play for Russia, cutting Canada’s lead to 4-2.
Another power play goal arrived at 9:06 of the third, this time Strome getting his second while Barzal assisted for his third point of the night making it 5-2 for Canada.
The visitors continued to hang around, knocking in their third goal a mere 90 seconds after Strome’s effort. Yegor Rykov pulled Russia back within two at 5-3 on even strength.
Kaprizov had one of the helpers on the third Russian goal, giving him a goal and an assist on the night. Rykov also had the same output, he assisted on Kaprizov’s goal. Other Russians getting on the score sheet with assists on Monday were Danil Yurtaikin and Mikhail Vorobyov.
The shot count was much closer in the third period (10-8 for Canada) but 37-17 overall for the hosts.
Canada’s next game will be on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. ET against Slovakia. Russia returns to the ice earlier in the day (4 p.m. ET) against Latvia. All games are live on TSN in Canada.