Team Canada modest ahead of potential laughter vs. Latvia
Team Canada goalie Connor Ingram is greeted with smiles as he slides into the bench on a delayed penalty call as Canada plays Slovakia in world juniors action on Dec. 27, 2016. (Michael Peake/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network)
TORONTO — Apologies and all due respect to Dylan Strome, the captain of Canada at the 2017 world junior championship.
But we have to call him on this one.
With the Canadians taking a day off from the ice on Wednesday after a couple of convincing wins to start the tournament, Strome and head coach Dominique Ducharme met with reporters at the Air Canada Centre and, to an extent, attempted to put Canada’s overall strength in perspective.
“Anyone can beat any team team on any given day,” Strome said a few times. “A goaltender can stand on his head or (other) things can happen.
“You have to be ready to play every game. We’re gaining momentum for sure. Dom talked about that. We want to gain momentum here and bring it into Montreal (for the medal round next week).”
Theoretically, we suppose a team could beat another club when few expect it.
Denmark did it to Finland on Tuesday, but this is just a bit different. It’s an ironclad, take-it-to-the-bank guarantee, though, that Canada will beat Latvia, and we would imagine fairly easily, on Thursday night at the ACC.
Latvia has little history in the world junior, winning five of the 26 games it has played in the event.
One of Latvia’s losses was against Canada in 2009 in Saskatoon, the lone meeting between the teams at the under-20 level. The Canadians scored in the opening minute a goal by Gabriel Bourque and managed to squeeze out a 16-0 victory. Only twice in the world junior has Canada scored more goals in one game.
We don’t know that Canada necessarily will score more than the equivalent of a couple of converted touchdowns on Thursday, but we suppose it’s possible. Latvia has 13 skaters who play in North America, but that’s not going to make much of a difference. When Russia crushed Latvia 9-1 on Tuesday, it did so without breaking much of a sweat.
Ducharme wouldn’t reveal whether it will be Carter Hart or Connor Ingram in the Canada net, but the handwringing that has been happening because Ingram saw just six shots against Slovakia, and therefore allegedly could not be properly evaluated, should stop.
Hart and Ingram were doing just fine with their club teams in the Western Hockey League prior to the tournament, and seeing little rubber here won’t suddenly turn them into bad netminders when Canada has an actual challenge (perhaps on Saturday against the United States).
Those who have been watching from afar and who have not really paid much attention to the tournament could think that Canada might have to guard against cheating and not bothering to go full bore versus Latvia.
We don’t get the sense that this group knows anything but a relentless mentality on every shift, no matter the talent of the opponent. It’s not going to let up against Latvia.
Ducharme mentioned that nothing in hockey is perfect, and he’s right, so where could Canada stand to make some improvements from the first two games?
Strome has an idea. Sort of.
“Going to the net hard and getting shots,” Strome said, quickly running out of examples. “I am sure Dom will talk about it and we will adjust some things. Definitely more positives than negatives to take out of (the win against Slovakia).”
Strome knows the experience already is much different than last winter in Helsinki, when Canada lost its opener and won once in regulation in the preliminary round.
“It’s nice to be where we’re at, and it’s a lot more comforting than last year,” Strome said. “It feels like this year we are kind of exceeding expectations. We’re playing to our strengths.”
Against which Latvia won’t stand much of a chance, no matter how diplomatic Strome was attempting to be in sizing up the at-times unpredictable nature of the tournament.