Scott Salmond and Peter Anholt saw Canada’s World Junior Hockey Championship hopes evaporate in an instant.
The staff had assembled a private roster of five players, mostly in the NHL. Two other players had to deal with injury or a virus, which led to last-minute changes.
Canada looked good at times, but at other times the country seemed downright disorganized.
The Canadians probably offered their best hockey on Tuesday, during the second and third periods of the quarter-final against the Czechs.
Salmond and Anholt, like the fans watching from home, were baffled by the players’ refusal to shoot from the most convenient spots. It was expensive.
Canada dominated over the final 40 minutes, but was put away by a goal that hit a defender’s leg and stick with 11.7 seconds left in the third period. The 2-3 loss was tough to swallow for a hockey powerhouse that has won gold twice in a row and aspired to the top again despite significant absences.
“It always feels empty,” Anholt said Wednesday. Like a knot in the stomach. »
Canada’s defeat against Sweden in the preliminary round meant that the maple leaf finished second in Group A, and therefore obtained a tougher opponent in the quarter-finals. Against the Swedes and Czechs, Salmond saw a group unable or unwilling to direct the puck to the net. By his count, the team passed up 30 shooting opportunities on Tuesday.
“It’s our trademark when we find a way to win,” he said.
For a group that relies on speed, skill and tenacity, they haven’t buzzed enough near the net. The team was therefore unable to create enough second and third chances to score.
“They are elite players,” said the general manager of the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the WHL. But at this tournament, it probably would have been better to keep things simpler on the ice. »
Tuesday’s defeat was the first against Czechia in the round of 16.
“The players gave everything,” argued Salmond. They represented Canada to the best of their abilities. »
He pointed out that players born in 2004 were very affected by the pandemic. Tournaments were canceled, development opportunities were missed.
“They learn on the job,” Salmond said. They gain international experience at the most critical time. »
Connor Bedard (Chicago, NHL), Adam Fantilli (Columbus, NHL), Kevin Korchinsky (Chicago, NHL), Zach Benson (Buffalo, NHL) and Shane Wright (Seattle, AHL) could have joined the junior team even if They play professionally.
“We have to rely on depth,” said Salmond, whose program still got Matthew Poitras from the Bruins. You have to be able to deal with [qui est disponible et qui ne l’est pas]. »
Canada lost Tristan Luneau (Anaheim, NHL) to a virus which required a hospital stay.
“He could have been the best defender of the tournament,” Salmond said of Luneau. When you take that out of training, it hurts. »
Nashville Predators prospect Tanner Molendyk was sent home with a wrist injury.
Salmond recalled that despite the absences, the objective remained the same.
“We don’t go to these tournaments to [seulement] get a medal. We are going there to win. »
Despite the disappointment, management has already turned the page, and is now looking towards the next edition of the tournament, which will take place in Ottawa.
“You get up quickly,” Anholt said. You move on. We will be better next time. »
Macklin Celebrini, who will likely be taken first in the upcoming NHL draft, led Canada with eight points, including four goals. And according to Scott Salmond, the athlete exceeded expectations in Sweden.
“We sometimes wonder if we should give this kind of role to a 17-year-old,” Salmond said. But when we see his talent and the esteem he has from his teammates, we understand that he is a special player. »