Canada pummels undermanned Germany into submission in WJC opener

Justin Cuthbert
·6-min read
EDMONTON, AB - DECEMBER 26: Bowen Byram #4, Dawson Mercer #20, Ryan Suzuki #16 and Philip Tomasino #26 of Canada celebrate a goal against goaltender Jonas Gahr #30 of Germany during the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Place on December 26, 2020 in Edmonton, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
Canada rolled over an undermanned, overmatched Germany squad during its opening game of the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship. (Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Who said Canada wouldn’t have multiple tune-up games?

The Canadians rolled over an exhausted and severely undermanned German squad in their opening contest on Boxing Day at the world junior championship, running up a 16-2 final score to jump into top position in Group A on goal differential.

Dylan Cozens featured most in the scoring barrage, completing a hat trick and finishing the night with six points. Dawson Mercer followed with two goals and two assists, while Peyton Krebs, Philip Tomasino and Alex Newhook had two goals apiece as well.

Canada will square off with Slovakia on Sunday, with both teams looking to improve to 2-0 to begin the tournament.

This is 2020

Aside from the issuing country on Tim Stutzle’s passport, virtually every advantage heading into the game belonged to Canada — from the strength of the program, to the size of the ice, to the fact that the German roster was severely impacted by exposure to COVID-19. Suffice to say, it didn’t help much that all Germany had for its meeting with the hockey-starved tournament favourites and hosts was 14 skaters, all of whom were competing on the second half of a back-to-back after leaving it all out on the ice on Christmas Day in a competitive loss to Finland.

Whether Stutzle would have anything in the tank dominated much of the discussion heading into the matchup. But the German we should have paid more attention to when considering load — at least when gauging the competitive aspect coming in — was netminder Arno Tiefensee.

The 18-year-old Tiefensee, the nation’s starter only because Germany’s No. 1 contracted COVID-19 and was subsequently ruled ineligible, was, among many German skaters, grossly unprepared for the matchup, allowing three goals in the first five shots and four goals in the first period overall.

It almost looked as though Tiefensee was closing his eyes and guessing on the more premium Canadian looks, but the most damning moment came when he stepped out of the crease to play the puck on a German power play, mismanaged it, and could barely move his legs in his efforts to return to the crease as Dawson Mercer curled it into the back of the net on the wraparound.

Seeing its netminder labouring, Germany sent maybe its fourth stringer, Jonas Gaehr, out to complete the game following the first intermission, and the viewing experience quickly grew uncomfortable. That’s because Gaehr fared much worse, allowing seven goals in the second period before whiffing on the first five attempts thrown toward him to start the third period. All told, Gaehr allowed 12 goals as the Canadians padded their statistical totals on Night No. 1.

No indictment on Germany

This was a worse look for the tournament and its organizers than it was for Germany’s ever-improving junior program. In addition to being down to 14 skaters, the Germans were without three of their top four or five players due to COVID-19-related issues, including top defender Moritz Seider, the sixth-overall selection of the Detroit Red Wings in 2019, and forward Lukas Reichel, who just went 17th overall to the Chicago Blackhawks. That core group would also include netminder Tobias Ancicka, who would have been a strong bet to prevent Saturday’s catastrophe in goal.

Fortunately, the Germans do not have to worry about relegation this winter due to the circumstances, meaning they will definitely have the opportunity to come back in 2022 to showcase the strength of their program, though it will be without Stutzle and Seider.

Ace in the hole

It was a surprise to see Philip Tomasino scratched for Canada’s first and only world junior warm-up game. Tomasino was one of the most dominant players in the Ontario Hockey League last season, scoring 100 points in 62 games, and impressed many through training camp and the lead-up to the event. So if there is a silver lining to losing a potentially dominant force and the team’s captain, Kirby Dach, in the only preliminary game, it’s that Tomasino will be unleashed, and likely to play a feature role.

The scoring talent that Tomasino possesses was on display almost immediately, and in a rare moment when the game appeared to still be mildly interesting. After the Germans made it 2-1 around the halfway mark of the first period, Tomasino answered with this slick, solo offensive display, restoring the two-goal lead which would quickly snowball.

With Dach back in Chicago, Tomasino doesn’t have to worry about dressing any longer. Though it’s unlikely that it would have been an issue after his two-goal, three-point performance.

Levi doesn’t break

As resounding as the victory was, the Canadians can take some confidence from the performance of netminder Devon Levi.

The unheralded netminder, who was hardly on Hockey Canada’s radar in the initial preparations for the tournament, was important early, making a series of difficult denials, including this sprightly stop on Stutzle.

Including his shutout over the Russians in the lone pre-tournament game, Levi has stopped 31 of his first 32 shots in his bid to keep claim to the No. 1 goaltending position. But the best sign for Levi might have been that head coach Andre Tourigny made a decision with his maintenance in mind, taking him out for Dylan Garand to start the third period.

Garand made five saves on six shots.

Schneider should see suspension

There’s always one.

The only disappointment for Canada in the crushing victory was the five-minute major levied to defenseman Braden Schneider for a clear, and dangerous, hit to the head on Germany’s Jan-Luca Schumacher, which will almost certainly carry with it a suspension.

It seems you can set your watch to this sort of thing at the world juniors, especially at the beginning of the tournament when players are so desperate to make an impact after months and months of anticipation.

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