It was an exciting and eventful first day at the 2022 World Junior Hockey Championship, as all three medallists from last year picked up wins on Boxing Day.
Germany battled hard in the tournament’s opening game, but a couple of unlucky bounces led to goals against and Finland came away with a 3-1 victory. Sweden scored early and often in its first game of the tournament, pulling away in the third period to defeat Russia 6-3.
Canada received an early scare, falling behind Czechia 3-1 in the first. But in typical junior hockey fashion, the Canadians were able to tie the game back up before the period was over, and never looked back, winning 6-3.
Meanwhile, the United States used its power play and a dominant second period to hold off Slovakia, as goaltender Drew Commesso helped backstop the Americans to a 3-2 victory. Here are three stars from Day 1 of the 2022 World Juniors.
3rd Star: Matvei Michkov, Russia
Russia may not have won its first game of the tournament, but Michkov had himself a game.
Not eligible until the 2023 NHL Draft, Michkov put the Russians on his back when they were down 4-1. He was awarded a goal after being stopped on the breakaway, but the puck crossed the goal line as the net was knocked off its moorings.
Forty-one seconds later, he scored a physics-defying goal, whipping a knuckle puck from below the goal line that beat Jesper Wallstedt (Minnesota Wild prospect) up high to bring Russia within one.
While Sweden scored two more goals to pull away in the third period, Michkov was able to show off his electrifying skill in the loss.
Russia won’t have much time to regroup, as it faces Switzerland on Monday. Meanwhile, Sweden battles Slovakia on Monday.
2nd Star: Brad Lambert, Finland
Germany was no pushover for the Finns, and despite missing several star players, managed to outshoot Finland 24-22. But the Finns were able to pull away from the Germans as the game wore on, and Lambert was a big reason why.
A projected first-rounder in 2022, Lambert appeared to open the scoring midway through the first period, as he picked up the puck near the point and fired a floater that beat German goalie Nikita Quapp.
The goal was eventually awarded to Samuel Helenius (Los Angeles Kings), who deflected it in the slot, but it was Lambert who helped give Finland an edge early when Germany was building momentum.
Lambert picked up his second assist of the game with a beautiful pass through multiple German players down to the doorstep for Helenius’ second goal, which ultimately helped seal the victory for Finland.
Lambert was one of the most dynamic players on the ice and was named ‘player of the game’ for Finland. If he can build on this performance, he will play a critical role in Finland’s quest for another medal.
1st Star: Owen Power, Canada
As a whole, Canada’s blue line had a rough first half of the first period, but when the game was all said and done, five of Canada’s six goals were scored from the back end.
Czechia skaters beat Canadian defenders cleanly on three straight goals to build a two-goal lead. Canada was reeling, and desperately needed someone to step up.
Then Power took over.
The first overall pick by the Buffalo Sabres from the 2021 NHL Draft responded for Canada, scoring 23 seconds after the Czechs made it 3-1 to get his team back into the game. Canada was able to tie the game before the period ended and swing momentum back in its favour.
After Czechia got into penalty trouble in the second period, Power scored twice on the power play to give Canada a two-goal lead and complete the hat trick. He became the first Canadian defenceman in World Juniors history to score three goals in a game.
Without Power’s performance, Canada might have been looking at an upset defeat at the hands of the Czechs. Instead, the Canadians were able to settle their nerves and get back to playing their game.
Canada has a day off before taking on Austria on Tuesday, while Czechia will try to hit the reset button quickly in time for its game against Germany Monday.