WORLD JUNIORS PREVIEW: CANADA VS. SLOVAKIA
Thursday, August 11 | 4 p.m. MT | Edmonton, Alberta | Preliminary Round
TV: TSN | Radio: TSN Radio | Stream: TSN Direct
Coming off a big opening-game win over Latvia, Canada’s National Junior Team gets right back on the ice at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship, taking on Slovakia in its second of four preliminary-round games.
Canada was pushed by Latvia in its opener on Wednesday afternoon, netting three goals in the final nine minutes of the second period to turn a tie game into a three-goal lead in an eventual 5-2 win. Connor Bedard opened the scoring and added an assist, and Ridly Greig and William Dufour also chipped in with a goal and a helper. Lukas Cormier and Olen Zellweger were the other goal-scorers, both on second-period power plays. The Canadians were not short on chance, outshooting Latvia 44-24.
The Slovakians’ prelim opener against Czechia on Tuesday afternoon – a 5-4 loss – was a thriller. Slovakia came out flying, getting goals from Servac Petrovsky and Matej Kaslik before the game was six minutes old. The Czechs got the next four, but Rayen Petrovicky and Kaslik recorded power-play goals to tie the game with less than four minutes to go. The comeback was not to be, however, as a late Czech goal left Slovakia on the wrong end of the final result.
Inside the bubble at the 2021 World Juniors in Edmonton, Canada improved its record to 2-0 in Group A with a 3-1 win over the Slovakians on Dec. 27, 2020. Jordan Spence struck just four minutes in, but the Europeans held Canada – which scored 16 goals in a win over Germany a day earlier – to just 23 shots on goal. Philip Tomasino added insurance with 3:35 to go, and Jack Quinn found the empty net after Slovakia had pulled within one late.
WHAT TO WATCH
Do not give Canada an opportunity on the power play. The Canadians can roll out two high-octane groups on the man advantage, and they were key in the win over Latvia; Canada finished 2-for-3 while a man up, and the two goals – from Lukas Cormier and Olen Zellweger – turned the tide, coming five minutes apart to turn a 1-1 tie into a 3-1 lead. The scary part? As the five-man units get more game action and become more familiar with each other, they’re only going to get better.
There’s something about playing in Alberta that agrees with Simon Latkoczy. The Slovakian goaltender posted the third-best save percentage during the 2021 World Juniors (.921) and stopped 39 of 42 in a narrow loss to the U.S. before the tournament was cancelled last December. He was a hard-luck loser in his 2022 re-debut on Tuesday, finishing with 47 stops in a 5-4 loss to the Czechs. He’ll have to be good again to keep the high-powered Canadian offence in check.
A LOOK BACK
Canada and Slovakia have been frequent foes at the World Juniors, facing off 15 times since 1997, with eight of those matchups coming in the last decade. The Canadians have won 14 of those 15 meetings, the lone blemish a 0-0 tie at the 1999 tournament in Winnipeg.
Among the individual highlights? A memorable hat trick for Nic Petan in a 5-1 semifinal win in Toronto in 2015, and a three-goal effort from Taylor Hall as part of an 8-2 win at the 2010 World Juniors in Saskatoon.
All-time record: Canada leads 14-0-1
Canada goals: 75
Slovakia goals: 16