Team Canada opened the 2024 IIHF World Junior Tournament in Gothenburg, Sweden with a 5-2 win over Finland on Boxing Day.
Nate Danielson, Maveric Lamoureux, Owen Allard, Macklin Celebrini, and Matthew Poitras all had goals for Canada, while Mathis Rousseau made 24 saves to get the win.
Aleksanteri Kaskimaki and Jere Lassila had the goals for Finland, while Niklas Kokko stopped 26 shots in a losing cause.
“We pushed the pace through transition and I thought our cycle was pretty good,” Team Canada head coach Alan Letang said in a press release. “At times, our puck management got a little sloppy and that when they titled the ice on us and we had to get back to the one-two feet back inside the blueline where we needed to manage pucks.
“All in all, the guys handled the pressure, (and) they handled the atmosphere. For the first time putting on a Canadian jersey, I thought every guy handled it well.”
Canada led 2-1 heading into the third period when Celebrini’s goal six-and-a-half minutes into the final frame extended their lead. Poitras added an empty net goal with less than three minutes to play, but Finland kept the pressure on, and scored with just over a minute left to make it 4-2. Canada replied with another empty-netter, this time from Lamoureux, to seal the win with six seconds left.
“Obviously, it’s a big win to get the first one because you always want to get off on the right foot to start the tournament,” Danielson said. “I think there are still things we want to improve on. Discipline is a big thing because you don’t want to give teams that many chances to score, but there’s always little things to touch on and get better at.”
Canada is back on the ice on Wednesday when they take on Team Latvia, who lost 6-0 to host Sweden on Boxing Day. In other Tuesday action, Slovakia beat Czechia 6-2, while the United States downed Norway 4-1.
Dell shines as Canada opens Spengler Cup with a win
Goaltender Aaron Dell stopped all 30 shots he faced and earned Canada’s first shutout at the Spengler Cup since 2019 on Tuesday.
Jonathan Hazen led the way offensively with two goals and an assist, as Canada defeated Frolunda HC 4-0 on the opening day of play.
Corban Knight and Ty Smith also had goals for Canada, who led 2-0 after the first and 4-0 after the second. Frolunda rallied in the third, outshooting Canada 17-4 thanks to four third period powerplay opportunities, including one with 17:15 left after Canada was whistled for too many men.
Frolunda finished 0-6 on the powerplay, while Canada finished 1-5.
Team Canada is off until Thursday when they play the hosts from HC Davos. Frolunda and HC Davos play on Thursday.
In other Tuesday action, Dynamo Pardubice rallied from a 2-0 first period deficit to beat HC Ambri-Piotta 3-2 in the tournament’s opening game.
The championship game is scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 31.