Facing their toughest competition of the tournament, Canada put forth a dominant performance against Sweden, led once again by Connor Bedard, closing out their preliminary round with a 5-1 win. Bedard finished the game with four assists, ending the preliminary round tied for the most goals ever by a Canadian at the World Juniors, most points ever by a Canadian at the World Juniors, and most points in a single tournament in Canadian World Junior Championship history.
Canada’s win set up a quarterfinal matchup against Slovakia on Monday.
Bedard continued his torrid pace in the opening frame, assisting on each of Canada’s three first-period goals. To open the game, Logan Stankoven drove the puck along the boards maintaining control and fighting off the Swedish defenders before sending the puck into the high slot to Brandt Clarke. Clarke put a shot-pass through traffic before Bedard corralled the puck to the right of the net, faked a shot and slid a pass to Montreal Canadiens draft pick Joshua Roy in the slot, who one-timed his shot behind Swedish netminder Carl Lindbom only 57 seconds into the game.
— Hockey Canada (@HockeyCanada) December 31, 2022
Just over a minute later on the power play, Bedard led the rush into the zone, finding Shane Wright in open ice down the right wing. Wright fed a puck through the middle of the ice, connecting with New York Rangers first-round pick Brennan Othmann, who scored his first of the tournament.
Picking up his third point of the period, Bedard battled to keep a play alive just inside Sweden’s blue line before finding Logan Stankoven in the middle of the ice. Stankoven slid a short pass to Tyson Hinds in the high slot, who blasted a one-timer over Lindbom’s glove to put Canada ahead 3-0. Sweden would get their lone goal of the game on the power play at 16:21 of the first, as Ludvig Jansson floated a point shot through traffic, evading Canadian netminder Thomas Milic.
After a scoreless second period, Othmann got his second goal of the game 35 seconds into the third period. After some solid board work from Wright and Ethan Del Mastro created a turnover in Sweden’s zone, Arizona Coyotes forward Dylan Guenther found Othmann off the back post. Lindbom couldn’t reach Othmann’s shot sliding across the crease, giving Canada the 4-1 lead.
— Hockey Canada (@HockeyCanada) January 1, 2023
To close out the scoring, Bedard picked up a record-tying point to finish perhaps the best preliminary round performance in Canadian World Junior Championship history, recording 18 points in only four games. Off another turnover, Bedard connected with Kevin Korchinski, who slid down to nearly the goal line before beating Lindbom short side.
The regulation win pushed Canada into second place in Group A behind Czechia, who beat Canada to open the tournament. Canada received solid netminding from Milic against Sweden, with the Seattle Thunderbirds netminder stopping 22 shots. Milic will almost certainly go back in net for Canada against Slovakia.
Slovakia finished third in Group B and has significant firepower throughout its lineup, including Canadiens first-round pick Filip Mesar, second-overall pick of the New Jersey Devils Simon Nemec, and 2023 draft-eligible prospects Alex Ciernik and Dalibor Dvorsky.
In the other quarterfinal matchups, Czechia will face Switzerland, while Group B winner USA will face off against Germany. Sweden will play their Scandinavian rivals Finland, meaning either the bronze or silver medal team from this summer’s World Junior tournament will be eliminated in the quarterfinals. Latvia will play Austria in hopes of avoiding relegation.
More from Yahoo Sports