Connor McMichael got the Canadian team out to a quick start and added an assist later, helping his team to a 5-0 win in semi-final action at the World Junior Tournament on Saturday.
Dale Hunter continued to have Joel Hofer (Portland WHL) inbetween the pipes for his squad and shuffled his lines again as defenceman Bowen Byram (Vancouver WHL/ Colorado NHL) could not play because of sickness. Aidan Dudas (Owen Sound OHL) was moved up to the third line in place of Raphael Lavoie (Halifax QMJHL/Edmonton NHL) to play with McMichael and Dellandrea.
It was important for Canada to get pucks on Finland goaltender Justis Annunen and test the resolve of their semi-final opponent and it didn’t take long. Just 3:55 into the game it was 3-0 Canada, setting the table for Hunter’s team to play a stress-free game and be better mentally prepared for their next game.
Connor McMichael (London OHL/Washington NHL) scored the opener at 1:48 sniping a shot from the left faceoff circle over the right shoulder of the Finnish goaltender. After taking a pass from Dudas, he made no mistake showing off his pro-level shot for his fourth goal of the tournament.
It was 2-0 when Alex Lafreniere beat Annunen with a backhand after being sent in on a semi-break by Nolan Foote (Kelowna WHL/Tampa NHL) at 3:05. After faking a shot, Foote looked off the defender before sliding the puck over to a streaking Lafreniere. The potential number one pick in the 2020 NHL draft made it look easy as he lifted the puck short-side past the now under fire Finnish goalkeeper.
50 seconds later it was 3-0 when 17-year-old defenceman Jamie Drysdale (Erie OHL) scored his first goal. After making a nice move around a Finland forward to get to the centre of the ice, the potential top-5 NHL pick made a nice shot beating Annunen low blocker. Raphael Lavoie (Edmonton NHL) and Quinton Byfield (Sudbury OHL) both received assists on the play.
Finland was able to mitigate some of the pressure after the third goal against them, but it was Canada extending the lead late in the period off a crease-crashing goal by Ty Dellandrea (Flint OHL). McMichael let a shot go towards the net and after being deflected the Finnish goalie couldn’t get his glove on it quick enough. Dudas poked the puck Dellandrea and it was 4-0 after he quickly slapped the puck into the open Finland net.
The second period wasn’t as eventful as Canada exuded a more defensive style, but did make it 5-0 late in the frame on Lafreniere’s second of the game effectively ending the game. While on a powerplay, the slick forward took a feed from Calen Addison (Lethbridge WHL/Pittsburgh NHL)and wired a wrist shot short-side much like his goal in the Slovak game for his fourth of the tournament. Canada goalie Joel Hofer (Portland WHL/St Louis NHL) had to make his best stop of the game to this point with less than a minute remaining in the middle period.
The third saw another injury scare as Barrett Hayton suffered an arm injury after he crashed into the boards and left the game. Arguably Canada’s best player, it would be a huge loss if he can’t go against Russia. Hunter tested some different combos lines taking advantage of some bonus time with a big lead to close out the game.
Hofer had to be strong at times as the score could have been closer if not for some good saves by the Western Hockey League netminder. He was named player of the game for the Canadian squad.
Team Canada’s Barrett Hayton, Alex Lafreniere, and Liam Foudy were named Canada’s top three players of the tournament after the game, though you could debate many others, including McMichael, could have been named.
Canada has given up just four goals in four games since the lopsided 6-0 loss to Russia in the preliminary round. Canada will now take on Team Russia in the rematch on Sunday at 1 PM EST in the gold medal championship. Finland and Sweden will play for bronze at 9 AM EST.