The 2023 World Junior Hockey Championship did not start off for Team Canada the way that most expected.
Coming off a 2022 gold medal victory, the Canadians fell flat in their opening game of the 2023 running on Monday. Making matters worse was Canada’s opponent. No, it wasn’t USA, Finland or Sweden – one of the typical round robin super-powers – but rather Czech Republic.
Sure, Czech Republic – or Czechia, for those keeping track at home – has some youthful talent, but it was never projected to go very far in this tournament, let alone beat the projected No. 1 seed Canada in its opening game.
The Canadians actually got off to a decent start, scoring the game’s opening goal, but Czechia responded quickly with two quick strikes. Then, with Zach Dean kicked out of the contest following the assessment of a match penalty, the Czechs scored three-straight goals on the five-minute power play, blowing the game wide-open on a 5-2 advantage.
“The gold medal is not won tonight,” Canadian goal scorer Shane Wright said post-game. “We still got three more round robin games to go. And I think tonight’s just going to teach us a lot of a good lessons. We’ve got to respect our opponent a little more. We’ve got to make sure that we come in every single game ready to fight. We’re going to get every team’s best and every team wants to beat Canada.”
Although tasked with three goals to make up in the third period, Canada couldn’t even find one, ultimately dropping the game by the three-goal deficit that Czechia held through 40 minutes.
When the highlight of the game for Canada is two separately attempted lacrosse-style ‘Michigan’ shots on net, you know it’s a tough outing.
Sure, the highlight reel material would have been cool if either attempt ended up in the Czechs’ net, but that wasn’t the case, and the ideology certainly didn’t look good for the Canadians, all things considered.
“We wanted to put on a show,” defenceman Brandt Clarke added. “Maybe that got us away from what we were actually intending to do — just be a hard-nosed team, be a team nobody wants to play against.
Making things even more interesting is the fact that Canada’s practice originally scheduled for Tuesday has been cancelled. No additional information has been provided other than a tweet posted late Monday evening by Josh Clipperton of The Canadian Press.
Canada has cancelled its Tuesday practice at the #WorldJuniors.
— Joshua Clipperton (@JClipperton_CP) December 27, 2022
Although unexpected, this news could be a result of various issues within the team, including that of widespread illness in the dressing room, an individual case of COVID, or plain and simply a decision by head coach Dennis Williams to wake his players up following an embarrassing start.
Either way, this decision will be highly scrutinized, matter the reasoning.
Canada next faces off on Wednesday evening in a 5:00 PM central battle against Germany. The game can be viewed live on TSN.