Knockout stage begins as Canada prepares for Slovakia in quarters at World Juniors
The final eight hockey nations that will compete for the 2023 World Junior Hockey Championship have been determined.
Halifax and Moncton will host four quarterfinal matchups on Monday, highlighted by a clash between host Canada and underdog Slovakia in primetime.
Coverage of Canada vs. Slovakia begins Monday night at 6pm ET/3pm PT on TSN 1/4/5 and streaming on TSN.ca or the TSN App.
Canada and phenom Connor Bedard have found their groove over their last three games after a surprising 5-2 defeat to Czechia on Boxing Day. Team Canada have outscored Germany, Austria and Sweden 27-3 over their last three games, including a dominating 5-1 victory over the Swedes on New Year’s Eve, who were unbeaten going into the contest.
The Canadians will be the favourites in the quarterfinals, especially with the historic numbers Bedard has been putting up at this year’s tournament.
The 17-year-old projected first-round pick recorded four assists in the win over Sweden and is now tied with Hockey Hall of Famer Eric Lindros for the all-time Canadian points record at the World Junior Championship with 31. Bedard has reached that number in 13 games while Lindros accomplished the feat in a total of 21 games. He's also tied with Jordan Eberle for first on the all-time Canadian scoring list with 14 goals
"It was news to me," Bedard told reporters after the game. "To have my name in the same sentence as him is crazy."
The Regina Pats centre also pulled even with Dale McCourt (1977) and Brayden Schenn (2011) for the Canadian single-tournament record with 18 points. Swedish hockey legend Peter Forsberg holds the record for most points in a single tournament, posting 31 points in seven games at the 1993 tournament.
Team Canada teammate Logan Stankoven has recorded the second-most points at this year’s World Juniors with eight, still a full 10 points behind Bedard. The top Slovak point-producers are Peter Repcik and Montreal Canadiens 2022 first-round selection Filip Mesar, who have each tallied six points.
Finland vs. Sweden (11am ET/8am PT – TSN 1/3/5, TSN.ca, TSN App)
Czechia vs. Switzerland (1:30pm ET/10:30am PT – TSN 1/3/5, TSN.ca, TSN App)
USA vs. Germany (4pm ET/1pm PT – TSN 1/3, TSN.ca, TSN App)
Canada vs. Slovakia (6pm ET/3pm PT – TSN 1/4/5, TSN.ca, TSN App)
Canada will now turn their attention to Slovakia, who ended the round robin with a tough 4-3 shootout loss to Switzerland on Saturday. The Slovaks finished third in Group B after winning two of four games in group play while Canada finished second in Group A behind Czechia.
Slovakia has scored 14 goals and allowed 12 so far at this year’s World Juniors. They fell to Canada 6-1 earlier this month in a pre-competition game.
"They're big, they're fast, they're strong," said Canadian winger Brennan Othmann. "They're still dangerous. They've got some very good players."
Othmann, the 16th overall pick by the New York Rangers in the 2021 Draft, says the team has improved greatly since their opening loss to Czechia last week.
"A hundred times better," Othmann remarked. "We're playing a more complete game. We're back to that hard-nosed, grinding hockey which we need to play, especially later on in the short-term competition."
However, Team Canada will have a new player on their roster as Hockey Canada announced on Sunday that forward Owen Beck has been added as a replacement for the injured Colton Dach.
Beck, 18, has scored 17 goals and 23 assists over 30 games with the Mississauga Steelheads of the Ontario Hockey League this season. The Port Hope, Ont., native was selected in the second-round, 33rd overall, by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft.
Beck was cut from Canada's World Junior team earlier this month at selection camp.
Dach, 19, will miss the remainder of the World Juniors after appearing to suffer a right shoulder injury in the third period of Saturday's 5-1 win over Sweden. Dach threw a hit in the defensive zone and immediately crumpled to the ice favouring his right arm.
When it comes to goalie, it appears Thomas Milic has the upper-hand to get the start over Ben Gaudreau after putting up a solid performance against Sweden, stopping 22 of 23 shots. Milic has a 1.22 goals-against average while Gaudreau is sitting at an 8.57 GAA after allowing five goals against Czechia in the opener.
Adam Gajan has gotten the lion's share of the work for Slovakia, posting a 2.27 GAA over three games, including a shutout against Latvia.
Canada are the defending World Junior champions after winning the previously cancelled 2022 tournament over the summer and are looking to capture their 20th gold medal in history. Slovakia have earned two bronze medals, most recently in 2015.