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2020 World Juniors: Canada vs. Russia recap: Lafrenière exits with injury as Canada gets demolished

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Canada came back down to Earth, and continued to drill well into its surface.

Canada v Slovakia: Exhibition - 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Kevin Light/Getty Images

Two teams with completely different starts to the tournament faced off Saturday afternoon. Canada, lighthearted after the strong comeback win against USA, encountered a Russian side that managed to drop their opener against the same Czech team that spent this morning losing to Germany.

Thus, it was an early must-win game for the Russians, especially to remain in the discussion for Group B’s top seed. Dale Hunter chose to continue with his opening-day selection, Nico Daws, as the goaltender. Valeri Bragin on the other hand, chose to mix it up. After conceding four goals in 17 shots against the Czech Republic, Yaroslav Askarov got substituted for Amir Miftakhov. A third period with a shutout gave Bragin reason to continue with Miftakhov into this second feature.

Almost every incentive before the start of the game was pointing towards a Canadian victory. That momentum changed a minute in, when Red Wings prospect Jared McIsaac passed straight to Alexander Khovanov while in his own zone. Khovanov took a few steps forward and fired a wrister which hit Daws and went straight into the air before landing inches inside of the goal line. The puck was bouncing Russia’s way. Even more so when the replay showed that McIsaac’s pass probably left the zone before being broken up by Khovanov, creating a potential offside.

The goal seemed to overtake Canada and they were not able get anything going offensively to potentially tie up the contest. Instead, another quick surge from Russia created a second goal. Nikita Alexandrov shot from the blue line and Vegas prospect Pavel Dorofeyev, a player that several mock drafts had going in the first round last summer, was left all alone in the crease and scored his first of the tournament.

Canada continued to look lost in their positioning and Russia defended every potential breakaway with ease. Minutes later, Nikita Rtishev scored on a rebound to make it 3-0.

It could have been even worse going into the first break. Nico Daws took a tripping minor and Jacob Bernard-Docker followed it up with holding an opponent’s stick a minute later to give Russia a five-on-three for 50 seconds.

Second period started with the second half of a power play remaining for the Canadian team. Unfortunately, they still could not get anything going. Matters went from bad to dreadful when starlet Alexis Lafrenière had to be catered to the locker room, out of the game with what looked like a knee injury.

Two minutes into the second, 3-0 down and Lafrenière injured. Canada demonstrated little will to make this a closer game. Neither Ty Smith nor Bowen Byram did much to stop Alexandrov when he broke in from the right. Daws was beaten with ease and a lousy afternoon just kept on getting worse for Team Canada.

The goal meant that Dale Hunter felt urged to change something in his lineup. Daws left the net and Joel Hofer, St. Louis Blues fouth-round pick in 2018, entered to try and stabilize the Canadian defense.

If Hunter was hoping for a similar result as Bragin with his goaltender switch he was sorely mistaken as Hofer would have to surrender twice himself before the period was over. First, Yegor Zamula shot from up high with and saw his shot getting steered in by his namesake Sokolov for number five.

Later, Khovanov served captain Gregori Denisenko. Hofer could not stop the shot even though it did not look unobtainable and the game suddenly had the tennis-like result of 6-0.

The Russian captain jumped up against the boards, celebrating as if he had just won the tournament title.

The remainder of the contest was purely academical and the tempo decreased drastically during the final 20 minutes, for different reasons. Canada looked beaten down and broken. Russia, led from the backend by assistant captain Alexander Romanov, controlled what needed to be controlled. With 16 seconds left, the goal scorer Yegor Sokolov cross checked Ty Smith to the head and put the slightest of dents in the demolition, receiving a major penalty which sent him directly to the locker room for an early shower.

For Russia now awaits a highly unpredictable game against the United States tomorrow afternoon, while Canada gets their first chance at a bounce back Monday morning, playing top draft prospect Tim Stützle and his German side.