Nico Daws made 28 saves and put forth a solid effort in his official international debut as Team Canada downed Team USA 6-4 on Day 1 of the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship.
2020 NHL Draft favourite Alexis Lafreniere of the Rimouski Oceanic stole the show with a four-point effort on Day 1 of the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship to help guide Canada to a 6-4 victory over the United States.
Lafreniere’s four points included a trio of assists and the winning tally to earn Player of the Game honours as the red and white snapped a four-game losing skid against the Americans at this event.
“It was a fun game to play and a fun game to watch,” Lafreniere said. “The crowd was really into it and the atmosphere was amazing. The U.S. is a really good team. We got some breaks, capitalized and that gave us a chance to get the win.”
The Canadians were forced to battle from behind after surrendering a pair of first period goals while shorthanded. They went to work early in the second period as Washington Capitals first-round pick Connor McMichael of the London Knights got the Great White North on the board at the 3:31 mark before captain, Arizona Coyotes rookie, and Soo Greyhounds graduate Barrett Hayton evened the score with a power-play marker of his own just over three minutes later that drew an assist from Lafreniere.
Canada then gained the lead just past the midway mark of the second period when Kelowna Rockets captain Nolan Foote (Tampa Bay Lightning) fired home a quick wrister on the man advantage as Canada then carried the lead into the third period.
Hayton again scored early into the third frame to build Canada’s lead to 5-3 before the Americans pulled within one on a power-play tally by Peterborough Petes forward Nick Robertson (Toronto Maple Leafs), marking the second CHL talent to score for the rival squad after Hamilton Bulldogs winger and top OHL scorer Arthur Kaliyev (Los Angeles Kings) lit the lamp in the opening frame.
The U.S. would then draw even at four goals less than four minutes later before an incredible individual effort by Lafreniere just seven seconds later helped Canada regain the lead. An empty netter by Flint Firebirds captain Ty Dellandrea (Dallas Stars) which drew Lafreniere’s third assist of the night sealed the victory.
“We talked to the guys about playing our game,” Canadian head coach Dale Hunter of the London Knights said following the win. “It was not easy, both power plays were working and it was just one of those games. Our guys showed great pride representing Canada and they battled back.”
The coach was equally impressed with the performance of Lafreniere, one of the team’s five returnees.
“He just loves hockey and loves to play,” he said. “He’s a complete player, something the NHL wants and something we need from all of our guys.”
Canada also received a solid performance between-the-pipes with 28 saves from Guelph Storm netminder Nico Daws who made his official international debut.
Preliminary play continues for Canada on Saturday versus Russia, while the United States meets Germany on Friday.
Czech Republic 4 vs Russia 3
Jan Jenik of the Hamilton Bulldogs scored the game-winner to help boost the host Czech Republic to a 4-3 upset win over Russia.
The Arizona Coyotes prospect who produced a league-high 26-game point-streak earlier this season finished with two points, while Chicago Blackhawks prospect Michal Teply of the Winnipeg ICE produced three assists, and defenceman Simon Kubicek of the Seattle Thunderbirds scored the game’s first goal.
Russia’s top performer was Philadelphia Flyers prospect Egor Zamula of the Calgary Hitmen who scored twice with helpers from fellow CHL talents Alexander Khovanov of the Moncton Wildcats and Nikita Alexandrov of the Charlottetown Islanders.
Switzerland 5 vs Kazakhstan 3
A pair of third period goals lifted Switzerland to a 5-3 victory over Kazakhstan.
Defenceman David Aebischer of the Gatineau Olympiques was named Player of the Game with two assists including the primary helper on the game-winner. Kyen Sopa of the Niagara IceDogs had the secondary assist while Valentin Nussbaumer of the Shawinigan Cataractes assisted on the game’s first goal.
Sweden 3 vs Finland 2 (OT)
Alexander Holtz was the overtime hero in a battle of Group A titans as Sweden defeated Finland 3-2 to extend their undefeated streak in preliminary round play to 49 straight games.
The game featured a pair of former CHL stars and first round NHL Draft picks in leadership roles including Sweden alternate captain Rasmus Sandin (Soo Greyhounds / Toronto Maple Leafs) and Finland captain Lassi Thomson (Kelowna Rockets / Ottawa Senators).
For more information on Hockey Canada, Canada’s National Junior Team and the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship, please visit HockeyCanada.ca, or follow along through social media on Facebook, Twitter and #WorldJuniors.