Canada opened the first day of the World Junior Championship in Sweden with a 5-2 victory over Finland.
It was an impressive effort for the Canadians, who kept goaltender Niklas Kokko busy throughout the game. Nate Danielson broke the ice in the first period, and undrafted forward Owen Allard doubled Canada’s advantage late in the second.
Both Toronto prospects played in Canada’s top six, with Fraser Minten helping out on the third line with Connor Geekie and Jordan Dumais. Easton Cowan was on Canada’s second line along with Matthew Poitras and Mathieu Savoie, and proved to be Canada’s most dangerous line in the opening frame.
Cowan had a quiet game statistically, recording one shot and a penalty. Cowan’s role was to bring energy, and although he helped with a partial breakaway from Jordan Dumais, he fell short in the second period. Still, he took penalties, brought speed while blocking shots, and forced turnovers — everything we learned from his game.
Minten was completely taken off the scoresheet, but like Cowan, his defense was solid. He was more of a two-way presence on the top line, with Poitras and Savoie doing their own thing around the net throughout the game. While the other two got creative, Minten was helping Canada’s D-core push attackers to the outside. He had two shots in the second period, some great feeds in the third, and the rest of the game was close.
This win was huge for Canada, who are expected to have a close three-way battle with Sweden and Finland in the remaining games. If both teams finish tied in Group A, Canada will have the advantage in the tie-break situation, so every win and every goal will count.
Canada won’t have much of a break as they play Latvia tomorrow at 1:30pm ET. Canada enters as the heavy favorite, but both teams will be tired after opening night’s contests. The Canadians will then have a day off on Thursday before a big game against Sweden on Friday, which could ultimately determine the Group A winner.