Faced with the first real test of the 2021 World Juniors, Canada falls short


EDMONTON – Some like the cake walk, those mellow two weeks of battling against teams that don’t have a single player who could be on Team Canada, if they were born here.

Some see the walk as a chance for a Canadian to be strong and proud. To paint our faces and travel in groups to foreign countries like hockey vikings. Then when we beat a Germany, a Switzerland, a Latvia – or even a Russia, predictably, we Canadians fully beat Uncle Sam in our chest.

Full Disclosure: The World Junior Team has always been our dream team. We can say, “I’m sorry” more than any other country, but from December 26 to January 5 we become ugly Canadians as often as not.

Somehow, we created “A Holiday Tradition” by watching our children demolish children from other countries in some lopsided business that you would think Canadians, of all people, would be more likely to be. to apologize than to celebrate. Instead, we justify it with a chorus of, “It’s not our boys’ fault that they put us on the weak side of the toss.”

Ultimately, this can be our boys’ problem.

After two weeks of never giving up a even-matched goal, beating opponents 41-4, registering shutouts in every second game – NEVER TRAIL EVEN FOR A SINGLE SECOND – Canada were beaten 2-0 in the gold medal game by the United States on Tuesday night in Edmonton.

Trevor Zegras had a goal and an assist for the USA side, but his most precise shots came before the game, when he put into words what all Canadian fans quietly feared.

“I don’t think they’ve been tested by a real team yet,” Zegras said. “I don’t think this goalkeeper has been tested five on five yet.”

Hey, don’t brag if you can do it.

“There are a lot of good teams in this tournament, and they are part of it,” said magnificent Canadian defenseman Bowen Byram after the game. “We did our best in the third. We had a lot of luck. He didn’t come in.

Canada opened the game with a 7-2 run on the shot clock, and then Team USA took over. US defenseman Drew Helleson drifted a harmless wrist shot towards the net, and Alex Turcotte (Alfie’s boy) came through the lunge and redirected the puck past Devon Levi, and suddenly the record books were erased .

A balanced goal streak for Canada? Gone in their seventh game.

Levi’s 148 minutes, 20 seconds shutout? The story.

Didn’t you follow the whole tournament? Well, boys, you’re hanging around now.

Zegras scored early in period 2 and the score was 2-0 after 40 minutes, but there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that the game was still up for grabs.

“Going into the third, we have to believe we’re going to tie the game,” said Dylan Cozens, Canada’s top player here. “We got our looks. (Goalkeeper Spencer) Knight played great, but we didn’t get the rebounds.

Had the hockey gods distributed all of Canada’s fortune on goals against the Germans (16 of them), the Swiss (10) and Russia (a 5-0 win)? Had Canada used all its luck at the 25-cent slots and was hungry now at the $ 20 table?

Look, there are plenty of ways to diagnose a power outage from a team that had scored 41 times in seven games leading up to that silver medal game. We would start by crediting the opponent and Knight’s fabulous play in the American team’s net.

But something sticks to me:

Throughout the tournament, Canadian coach André Tourigny repeatedly sought to find adversity in every game, no matter what score, which Canada overcame to secure the victory. Whether it’s a penalty kick in a 4-1 game, the 53 days spent in hotels since training camp opened, the 14-day quarantine in Red Deer, or a few bad changes against the Slovakia, Tourigny’s mantra after every game was that his team was learning to face adversity and that was a welcome and necessary lesson.

Looking back, was he inventing this adversity? Had it really existed, as long as they knew what to do with the genuine article the Americans threw at them on Tuesday?

“The COVID test we had at the camp, we had to quarantine for 14 days on our own. This is the adversity that we have been through, ”Cozens said. “We played really well in every game and we met a good team like this. But this is not the first test we have faced.

OK, so maybe the best question is, can the adversity of playing a team that is your equal be fabricated elsewhere, using quarantines and a group of teams that don’t deserve to be on? the same ice cream as Canada?

Is it impossible to fabricate adversity, as Tourigny attempted to do?

“It was the first team that really pushed back, we weren’t used to it and we didn’t have enough time to come back,” said the coach. “After we adjusted, we were really good. But no one will remember it.

“They will remember the score.”


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