After two games, forward Kent Johnson hadn’t broken anything at the World Junior Hockey Championship. The Columbus Blue Jackets prospect remedied the situation on Saturday in another one-sided win for Team Canada Junior, this time 5-1 against the Czech Republic.
Johnson finished the game with a goal and an assist, but beyond the points, it was the way he scored his first goal of the tournament that impressed.
Tied 1-1 late in the first period, Canada’s No. 13 collected a loose puck behind Tomas Suchanek’s net before beating him to his right with a spectacular Michigan-style goal.
“It was a good feeling, especially because it was an important goal,” explained the man who had scored the same kind of goal during the team’s training camp.
With the goal, Johnson became only the fourth player in history to score at the World Juniors, the World Senior Hockey Championship and the Olympic Games in the same season, following Saku Koivu in 1994, Evgeni Malkin in 2006 and Eeli Tolvanen in 2018.
“It’s impressive, it takes a lot of skill to score a goal like that. I think Johnny [Kent Johnson] played their best game tonight[samedi]“, acknowledged head coach Dave Cameron who said he was especially happy that the trio of Johnson, completed by Logan Stankoven and Tyson Foerster, came out of his shell on Saturday.
“They executed with more speed, they cut towards the net more and they were better off the puck.”
In addition to Johnson, captain Mason McTavish again contributed offensively in Saturday’s victory, scoring his fifth and sixth goals of the competition. Ridly Greig and Tyson Foerster also helped score for the National Team.
They had, however, seen the Czechs take the lead early in the first period when Martin Rysavy beat Dylan Garand on a breakaway as his team ran out of a five-minute penalty awarded to Jaroslav Chmelar for a check from behind on Brennan Othmann.
The score could have been much higher, had it not been for the work of goaltender Suchanek, particularly in the first period during which he made several spectacular saves, including one, with the mitt, in front of Kent Johnson.
“He was incredible, admitted Othmann. During the first ten minutes of play, he made very big saves. I then looked at Mace [Mason McTavish] and I told him it would be a good game. We weren’t putting enough traffic in front of him and when we did, Mason scored the first goal.”
On the first line
ECJ finished the game with a total of 57 shots on goal, against 23 for the Czechs on Dylan Garand. Moreover, Saturday’s game was presented in front of the biggest crowd of the week, with 5,135 spectators attending the game.
As was the case in the third period of last Thursday’s game against Slovakia, it was Othmann who played with McTavish and Connor Bedard while Joshua Roy played with William Dufour and Ridly Greig.
“I know Mason well and we had played together in Switzerland [avec l’EHC Olten, pendant la pandémie]. I had never played with Beds [Bedard], but they are two players who are easy to play with. It’s hard to do wrong when you’re paired up with these two guys,” added Othman, a New York Rangers prospect.
The Canadians are now firmly established in first place in Group A, with a total of nine points. They will face their biggest test of the competition tomorrow night when they take on Finland who have yet to lose in two games in the tournament. The Finns will face Slovakia today at 2 p.m. Tomorrow’s match may very well decide the first place in the group.