Canada marches into world junior hockey semifinals with letter-perfect win over Czechs
Captains Canada came through.
Dylan Cozens, Bowen Byram and Connor McMichael — the three players who rotate wearing the C and A’s that denote leadership — each scored and Canada advanced to Monday’s semifinals at the world junior hockey championship with a 3-0 win over the Czech Republic.
Cozens opened the scoring and set up Byram for the second, while McMichael — into an empty net — rounded out the scoring in Canada’s toughest game yet at Edmonton’s Rogers Place.
“That’s what you need from your leaders,” said coach Andre Tourigny. “They need to step up at key moments. It’s good to go through that world junior adversity. Today we had adversity and we overcame it, so I’m happy.”
Among the leadership group, Cozens has shown the way, doing everything: score, assist, deflect, intercept, check and skate harder and faster than just about anyone else.
And they needed it all against the Czechs, who managed to outshoot Canada for stretches and take the play to goalie Devon Levi, who had his busiest game. He was solid yet again for his second shutout and has yet to allow an even-strength goal. He’s played every game in the Canadian net.
“It’s good for us to face a little bit of adversity,” Cozens told TSN after the game. “They pressured us lots. Levi kept us in there good. But we have more in the tank.”
- Slamming the door: Levi, who was a bit of an unknown commodity as far as Canada’s goaltending went prior to the tournament, has emerged as a star. Not that he was that busy in the group stage, but he hadn’t given up a goal at even strength and always seemed to be there when Canada needed him. He leads all netminders with five wins, an 0.64 goals-against average and .967 save percentage.
“I’m just super grateful to be here, honestly,” said Levi. “It’s an honest answer. I’m just taking every moment and savouring it, because I know that this is my last world juniors and I’m going to be able to look back on this for the rest of my life. I’m just trying to enjoy it as much as I can, and I think that really takes the pressure off.”
Against the Czechs — the first team to outshoot Canada (29-25) — he was needed, especially over the final six minutes when the Czechs pulled goalie Nick Malik multiple times to try to generate a goal.
Levi is the first Canadian goalie with more than one shutout at a single tournament since Zach Fucale in 2015.
“That guy is dialed in,” said forward Peyton Krebs. “Before the game, after the game, he’s putting in that extra effort. It shows on the ice.”