Ottawa Senators prospect Mark Stone scored again, his 4th of the tournament and it was the game winner as Team Canada defeated the Czech Republic 5-0 Wednesday night to stay perfect at 2-0 in the tournament. Scott Wedgewood of the Plymouth Whalers got the start in net and earned the shutout, making 26 saves and adding an assist in his first World Junior Championship action.
The Canadians badly outplayed the Czechs, and it was the play of Ottawa 67’s goaltender Petr Mrazek that kept it close for almost two full periods. Mrazek made 33 saves, including stopping Stone on a penalty shot late in the first period to keep it at 1-0 Canada. He kept it close until 16 minutes into the second when Canada got two quick goals from Ryan Strome and Brett Connolly to take control of the game going into the third.
Mark Scheifele added a pair of third period goals to ice the game and keep Canada perfect.
Looking ahead, and I said it before the tournament began, I would feel much more comfortable with Wedgewood between the pipes for important games rather than Mark Visentin. Visentin allowed only one goal against the Finns, but he was bailed out on at least two occasions by defenders protecting an open net due to Visentin being out of position. His rebound control was not good and he hasn’t had a great season in Niagara. I will be curious to see who gets the call against the US on Saturday, as that will likely be the player chosen to carry the team into the medal round.
OTHER WJC NOTES
Finland provided the first major upset of the tournament, by defeating one of the favorites, Team USA, 4-1 Wednesday afternoon. That means if the Czechs can defeat the Americans on Friday afternoon, (and assuming Canada can beat Denmark on Thursday night), the New Year’s Eve game between Canada and the US will be for pride only for the Canadians. They will have clinched first place in Group B and a bye into the semi-finals with another US loss. It could also be a chance for the Canadians to eliminate the Americans from medal contention altogether. But that could be getting ahead of ourselves, as the Czechs would need to pull the upset to put that scenario into play.
Another near upset in Group A saw Switzerland force Sweden to a shootout, taking a point away from one of the tournament favorites. This lost point could force Sweden to play an extra game should they not beat the Russians on Saturday night. Senators first rounder Mika Zibanejad was held pointless against the Swiss, but had a game high 12 shots on goal.
Canada’s goal differential is already a tournament best +12, and that could double against the overmatched Danes on Thursday night.
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