After rolling over both Germany and Austria, Team Canada will now face their toughest task of the 2023 World Juniors as they go up against Team Sweden in their final round-robin game.
This tournament has been wild so far and there is still a lot to play for on the final day of the round-robin. For example, there is still a chance that Canada and the USA will have to play each other in the quarterfinals.
If Canada beats Sweden in regulation time and Czechia beats Germany in any fashion, Canada will be locked in as the number two seed in Group A. On the other side, if the USA loses to Finland, then they’ll come third. That would set up a Canada vs USA matchup tomorrow.
The best-case scenario today for Canada would be a win over Sweden combined with a Czechia regulation loss. That would lead to Canada jumping up to the top spot in their group and would mean a much easier quarterfinal matchup.
There’s a lot up in the air on the final day of the round-robin.
I said before the tournament started that this year it really felt like the hype was back for this tournament and it’s lived up to that hype. The upsets have been unbelievable, a lot of games have been tight, and the talent on display is some of the best we’ve seen in years.
Here’s to hoping we can get some New Year’s Eve drama tonight with some big games on tap.
Canada found their offence in their last two games but things won’t come as easy tonight. Here is what Daily Faceoff’s Prospect Analyst Steven Ellis had to say about Team Sweden coming into this tournament:
Sweden will miss some key defenders in Halifax, but the offense is solid and goaltending should be good enough. Sweden should manage to fight for second in the group, but they’ll need to play all out every night to prepare for the medal round. No matter how good the team is, though, Sweden has a tendency to be a powerhouse team in the preliminary round before falling apart when it matters.
Sweden beat Germany 1-0, Austria 11-0, and Czechia 3-2 in overtime.
So far their best offensive producer has been Ludvig Jansson, who has five points so far in the tournament. The team has some talent, but on paper, they aren’t nearly as deep as this Canadian squad, and quite frankly, they don’t boast the same high-end talent either.
So far this tournament, it’s been the Connor Bedard show. The draft-eligible 17-year-old has 14 points through three games, which is seven points more than anyone else and nine more points than anyone not on the Canadian roster. He’s been mesmerizing and is showing why he’s the most hyped draft prospect since Connor McDavid.
With today expected to be a tighter matchup, they’ll need Bedard to keep driving the offence.
I’ll go ahead and say that they need a little bit more from Shane Wright as well. The Seattle Kraken forward has five points through three games, which is good, but he hasn’t taken over games the way Bedard has. As the matchups get tougher and tougher, I’ll be looking for Wright to become more and more impactful. His experience and maturity should help him shine through in some big moments.
In their last two games, Canada has outscored their opposition 22-2. That is remarkable but honestly, it doesn’t mean that much. Hopefully, it was a chance for them to find their offensive confidence, but after dropping their tournament opener to Czechia, Canada needs to use tonight to show that they’re truly the top dogs in this tournament otherwise there will be some serious questions heading into the medal round.
Head Coach Dennis Williams is making one change to the forward group:
He’ll also be starting Tomas Milic between the pipes. He came in of relief of Ben Gaudreau in the opening night loss and started in the win over Germany. He has a GAA of 1.36 and a SV% of .923. Solid numbers and he was the guy who I thought deserved the crease to start the tournament.
Before I wrap this up, I have to give a shoutout to our guy Reid Schaefer who got his first point of the tournament in the 11-2 win over Germany. He hasn’t played a lot, but I thought he looked good against Germany and deserves a bit more ice time. We’ll see if that happens as the games get bigger.