EDMONTON — Canada had 19 first-round draft picks in its lineup. Germany had 14 skaters — period.
When it was over, Canada had 16 goals. Germany had two.
“We gave up, in a way,” German head coach Tobias Abstreiter said.
“It could have been 200-1 — it’s not about that,” Canadian head coach Andre Tourigny said.
The one thing we can all agree on? “It does suck for them, that’s for sure,” said Canadian Dylan Cozens, who had a hat trick and six points.
Here are our takeaways on a blowout win for Canada in its opener at the 2021 World Junior Hockey Championship, as the team opened the 2021 World Juniors with a goal differential of plus-14. Bring on the tie-breakers!
Early and Often
Canada scored 1:54 into the game. They scored at 19:59 of the first period, at 19:51 of the second, and notched 14 consecutive goals between German snipes.
Germany, decimated by COVID-19 quarantines, dressed just 14 skaters. They eschewed an offer by the IIHF to delay the Canadian game to another day, because they would rather save the off day for games against Slovakia and Switzerland later in the week — when the Germans will start getting players back from quarantine. In short, Germany knew they weren’t going to win this game, and they played like it.
“This happens when you are not mentally and physically ready to play at this level, with this intensity and speed. This is the result,” Abstreiter said. “We had no tools, no battle level — nothing — to set anything against Canada’s strong game.”
Basically, the German players realized what they were up against, and gave in to the reality of their situation.
“There were only one or two players who were able to play physically strong,” the German coach said. “All the others, I would say, they could not keep up with these battle levels. We gave up, in a way. And this is what I can not accept.”
You’d think, with period scores of 4-1, 11-1 and 16-2, that the Canadians might have taken their foot off the gas. Well, think again.
“It could have been 200-1 — it’s not about that,” Tourigny said. “It’s about us preparing our team … to move forward in the tournament. It’s not about the score. It’s about how you play.
“We have no time to waste, to take a step back. Going out there and taking on bad habits.”
It’s funny, isn’t it? At times like these, the hockey rink is where Canadians are the least “Canadian.”
Then again, you have to remember: Canada spent two weeks in a Red Deer quarantine themselves. They only have so many periods of hockey to find their best game, and those elimination games will arrive sooner than you think.
“It’s our first game of the tournament,” Cozens said. “We’ve got to establish our good habits and play the right way. Just because we’re up by a lot, we’re not going to change the way we play. We want to pretend like it’s still a close game and keep those good habits going.”
Cozens, named Canada’s best player, did have some space in his heart for a German team that didn’t have a prayer on Saturday.
“It’s a tough spot they’re in,” he admitted. “We know how it felt when you’re just out of quarantine, how your lungs and legs felt. It does suck for them, for sure.”
Tourigny was unapologetic about the 16-2 rout, and after laying down some platitudes about how well their opponents played, he cut to the chase when asked about whether Canada should have called off the dogs at some point.
“We need to have the right habits,” said the Canadian coach, whose team meets Slovakia on Sunday. “It’s was not about pushing the pace, or trying to embarrass anybody. It was about playing the right way. We’re not a team who played 15 games together, or 30 games before the (training) camp.
“Most of our guys (had) four intrasquad games, one pre-competition, and one competition game. It’s not like we have the looks to say, ‘Hey, we can play a different style.’ Or, ‘We can let it go today.’ No, we need to get better.”
A little history: Canada is now 15-0 at the World Juniors against Germany — not West Germany, but Germany — but the Germans have caused Canada more trouble than you might think.
There have been two World Juniors played in Germany. Canada finished seventh in 1981, and sixth in 1992, when Eric Lindros joined the team after its training camp. That was the final time that Hockey Canada would sanction a player parachuting in right before the tournament. It was a disaster.
But it was a 7-6 loss to the team from West Germany back in 1981 that prompted then Canadian Amateur Hockey Association head Murray Costello to play a major role in forming the Program of Excellence, and reshaping our national junior team into what it is today.
“When Germany beat Canada, with Dale Hawerchuk on the team, I thought, ‘That’s just not fair to him, and it’s not fair to Canada,’” Costello said in my book, Road to Gold — The Untold Story of Canada at the World Juniors. “It cast him in a bad light and it was unfair to him. He was a quality player, and everyone knew he was. I thought, ‘We have to do something.’”
Costello convinced the head of the three junior leagues to give him their best players for a summer training camp, then another one in mid-December, and the rest, as they say, was history.
Thank you, West Germany.