Some games just feel bigger than others, and much like any time they go up against the Americans, a game against Russia at any level brings this country together. Tonight, Team Canada can advance to the Gold Medal game of the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championships with a win over Team Russia.
Canada’s looked absolutely dominant in the tourney so far, but face a real challenge against a solid Russian squad. Igor Larionov’s team has 4 good lines that can score. play well defensively and have future superstar goalie Yaroslav Askarov in net. Only one goaltender’s been better this tournament, and that would be Canada’s Devon Levi. The Canadian netminder’s put up some incredible numbers: A 0.64 GAA and .967 Save %, allowing just 3 goals against in his 5 appearances. He also has 2 shutouts.
Canada’s usually been a score by committee kind of team at these tournaments, but this year it’s been a handful of guys who have really been the difference makers for them. Dylan Cozens leads the tournament with 7 goals, and is 2nd overall in scoring, 2 points behind USA’s Trevor Zegras, who has 6 goals and 9 assists. Getting some of the other lines scoring is going to be key, and as we saw in their exhibition meeting before the tournament started, the Russians can stifle the Canadians offensively, so taking advantage of any opportunities, especially on the power play is vital to Canada’s advancement hopes.
It’s also another opportunity for us to watch Yvgeni Podkolzin play in a high-stakes contest on a day where we’ve been enjoying our first up-close look at another future Canuck in Nils Hoglander. Podkolzin has had a good tournament, but hasn’t been tearing it up on the score sheet. Still, Larionov seems to have faith in the kid.
The late game tonight will feature the USA vs Finland. The Americans advanced with a 5-2 win over Slovakia, while the Finns got here with a stunning last second win over their hated neighbours Sweden. Canada has already beaten the Finns in this tournament, but have yet to go up against the USA.