Captain Mason McTavish tied a Canadian World Junior single-game record with four goals and added two assists in an 11-1 romp over Slovakia on Thursday. Host Canada, silver medalists in 2021, has won two straight games, while the Slovaks remain pointless in Group A.
It was the most lopsided Canadian victory ever over Slovakia at this tournament. The previous biggest gap came in an 8-0 win on 26 December 2014 in Montreal.
Other Canadians with four goals in one World Junior game include Mario Lemieux (1983), Simon Gagne (1999), Brayden Schenn (2010), Taylor Raddysh (2016), and Maxime Comtois (2018). At age 16, Connor Bedard also had four goals in the 11-4 win over Austria at the tournament cancelled due to Omicron in December.
Of tying the goals record, McTavish said: “It’s pretty cool, a special moment, but credit to my teammates. They were looking for me all game, especially Bedard. He had a great game.”
Bedard, the consensus top prospect for the 2023 NHL Draft, opened the scoring for the second straight game and chipped in a helper.
Joshua Roy stepped up with a goal and three assists. Fellow forward Brennan Othmann – making his tournament debut along with blueliner Ethan Del Mastro – had a goal and two assists. Will Cuylle, Olen Zellweger, and Logan Stankoven contributed a goal and an assist apiece. Zach Ostapchuk had a single.
Matej Kaslik had the lone goal for Slovakia.
“I don’t know what happened,” said Slovakia’s Adam Sykora. “It was a terrible game for everyone. All we can do is look forward to the next game against Latvia. It’s the most important game of the tournament for us.”
Coach Ivan Fenes’ squad made far too many mistakes to have a prayer against the host nation, from bad turnovers to easy breakaway opportunities. Canada, meanwhile, put on the afterburners compared to the opening 5-2 win over Latvia.
“Our goal is to get better every day,” McTavish said. “I thought we moved the puck a lot quicker today. Coach kind of touched on that, too, less individual effort. We’re happy with how we won.”
Canadian head coach Dave Cameron gave goalie Dylan Garand his first start of these 2022 World Juniors. For Slovakia, Simon Latkoczy, who made 47 saves in Slovakia’s Day One 5-4 loss to Czechia, was replaced by backup Tomas Bolo to start the second period after giving up four goals on 15 shots.
The Canadians outshot the Slovaks 44-23.
The Slovaks put up a decent fight right out of the gate, but couldn’t contain Bedard. The North Vancouver-raised ace stickhandled around Slovak defenders at the centre point, sent a saucy flip pass to McTavish, and then headed to the net, where he put the Anaheim Ducks first-rounder’s return feed past Latkoczy’s glove at 6:16.
McTavish explained: “He made a really nice pass to me and I kind of cut by their two wingers. I saw he had quite a bit of speed so I knew he was going to go back door and he feathered it through.”
At 13:06, Cuylle, who captained the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires in 2021-22, made it 2-0 Canada. The New York Rangers prospect scored five-hole on a breakaway set up by McTavish and Ridly Greig.
Canada’s 3-0 goal at 15:57 came off a giveaway by Slovak rearguard Simon Groch, who threw the puck up the middle, only to have it intercepted by Cuylle. He fed Othmann in the right faceoff circle for a one-timer that bulged the twine.
From the high slot, Zellweger winged the puck off the post and in with 43 seconds left in the opening stanza. The Slovaks challenged the goal, claiming it was offside, but video review said otherwise and it was 4-0.
The Canadians got an extended two-man advantage due to the ensuing delay-of-game penalty plus late slashing minors to Sykora and Boris Zabka. It carried over to the second period. Just 1:02 in, Stankoven converted a rebound past Bolo on the 5-on-3.
Moments later, Bedard nearly had another goal when he rang one off the Slovak goalie’s right post on the rush. However, McTavish made no mistake on a clearcut 2-on-0 break, flanked by Nathan Gaucer, as he zipped the puck home for a 6-0 gap at 6:25.
“We have a lot of skill, but we need to work more as a team,” Sykora said. “Today we didn’t play as a team. Everyone wanted to play his own game. We can’t do that.”
Shortly after the midway mark, Bolo denied Othmann on a breakaway. The Slovaks finally ruined Garand’s shutout bid at 14:40. They buzzed the Canadian net and Kaslik converted a rebound for his second goal in as many games.
“I saw he was open, and he’s a great scorer, so I just passed to him and told him to shoot,” Roy said.
At 3:44 of the third period, Othmann set up McTavish right in front for his fourth goal. Roy scored at 15:07 and Ostapchuk at 19:39 to finish off the onslaught.
On Friday, Slovakia will seek its first tournament win versus Latvia, while Canada battles the Czechs on Saturday.
Canada has now defeated Slovakia 15 times in 16 World Junior meetings with a goal difference of 86-18.
The only point the Canadians have ever conceded to Slovakia was in a scenario that no longer exists: a 0-0 tie. On 27 December 1998 in Brandon, Manitoba, goalie Roberto Luongo made 36 saves for Canada, while Jan Lasak delivered 31 saves for Slovakia.