World juniors: Canada coasts into gold medal game with another dominant win

·4 min read
Canada's dominant play at the 2022 world juniors continued versus the Czechs on Friday. (Getty)
Canada's dominant play at the 2022 world juniors continued versus the Czechs on Friday. (Getty)

Kent Johnson recorded a goal and two assists as Canada cruised past Czechia 5-2 at the world juniors to enter Saturday's gold medal game against the winner of the Sweden-Finland semifinal.

Johnson and linemate Logan Stankoven were the best players on the ice as Czechia ran out of gas a night after upsetting the heavily favoured United States team.

Here are four takeaways from Canada’s semifinal victory:

Kent Johnson rewarded for a dominant tournament overall

Kent Johnson, Logan Stankoven and Tyson Foerster dominated every shift they were on the ice, outmatching a Czechia team that couldn’t keep up with Canada’s overall skill and depth. Stankoven won virtually every faceoff he took, while Johnson showed all the playmaking range that wowed the Columbus Blue Jackets into taking him fifth overall in 2021.

Johnson capitalized on a loose puck to open the scoring, as Foerster and Stankoven created a dangerous chance in front of the net before the puck darted loose. As the game went on, Johnson remained constant, setting up Mason McTavish with a perfectly placed feed on the power play before the tournament’s leading scorer one-timed it home to increase the 3-0 lead.

During Canada’s round robin game against Czechia, Johnson scored the goal of the tournament, pulling off the Michigan against an unsuspecting defense. It was his lone offensive contribution to show up on the scoresheet, but on Friday night he regressed to the mean, exploding at the right time as Canada heads to the gold medal game.

Mason McTavish is gunning for the record books

Mason McTavish has been the best player in this version of the World Juniors since the tournament began and though he’s a lock for tournament MVP honours — barring an unprecedented performance from Connor Bedard in the final — McTavish is now facing off against history. After scoring in the second period, McTavish now has eight goals and 15 points, which puts him firmly in the top ten of single-tournament scoring for Canadians.

McTavish could leapfrog Wayne Gretzky’s 1978 effort (eight goals, 17 points) and with a truly spectacular, four-point game, the Anaheim Ducks prospect will be looking to topple Dale McCourt’s 1977 mark (10 goals, 18 points) and Brayden Schenn’s 2011 display (eight goals, 18 points) for the best single-tournament performance ever by a Canadian.

Not too shabby, and well within reach.

A shoutout to Tomas Suchanek in hopes he won’t be lost to the history books

Tomas Suchanek hasn’t been drafted by an NHL team, and it’s very likely that history will forget Czechia’s goaltender rather soon. Suchanek kept his team in the contest, and it was briefly a game when Czechia finally notched two goals in the third frame to cut Canada’s lead to 4-2. He wasn’t named his team’s best player — I disagreed with this decision entirely — and he probably won’t be named the tournament’s best goaltender, that’ll likely go to Sweden’s Jesper Wallstedt.

Without Suchanek, however, Czechia wouldn’t have had a chance. They certainly wouldn’t have taken down the United States in the quarterfinals. This semifinal would’ve taken an ugly turn without him. Scouting staffs are much smarter than they used to be, therefore it’s unlikely Suchanek gets a shot at the NHL on a strong two-week sample. But it would be cruel to forget Suchanek entirely, so let’s hope this blog memorializes one of the players of the tournament, even if he doesn't ascend to greater heights.

This could be the greatest Canadian team the public has barely seen

This is a dynamic Canadian team that has yet to be tested throughout the 2022 World Juniors. Canada routed Finland 6-3, the only team to offer a semi competitive game, and could be in for a rematch Saturday, with Finland squaring off against Sweden in the second semifinal. But in large part due to the attendance, and larger part to the sexual assault scandal Hockey Canada is embroiled in, many Canadians may not be witnessing the best team in recent memory.

Canada is expected to win the gold medal relatively easily tomorrow, no matter how many talking heads will try to build tomorrow’s matchup into a compelling showdown, with vested interest in its ratings. In normal years, this would be a team worth celebrating, but it’s a team befitting the abnormal climate we’re in.

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