Canada had its hands full for the first time at this year’s U20 World Championship, as Germany kept things close through most of the game. The Germans were able to use their size (all but four German players stand six feet or taller) to match up well against the physical Canadians.
"We knew going into the game that we were up against a team with superior talent and home-crowd advantage,” said German assistant coach Uwe Krupp. “Our goal was to hang around as long as possible and be a tough opponent."
Canada had many chances in the first period, but had to settle for a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes, thanks in large part to the strong goaltending of German Philipp Grubauer, who got his first start in net today.
Zach Boychuk relieved Canada’s early frustration, slamming in a long rebound on the power play 7:21 into the game. Four of the five Canadian goals here came on the power play. But the Canadians were uncharacteristically undisciplined in the latter stages of the period, taking three penalties. Canada only had four minors in its first two games.
Canada took a 2-0 lead on a two-man advantage to open the second period’s scoring. Jamie Benn scored from right in front of the crease after Canada cycled the puck around the German zone. In Canada’s first two games, that goal would have been the cue for the hosts to start pulling away. But the Germans had other ideas, as they took advantage of another Canadian penalty. David Wolf tipped in a shot by Sinan Akdag to cut the Canadian lead in half midway through the game.
"I've coached long enough to know that when a German team steps on the ice against Canada, they come to play hard," said Canadian head coach Pat Quinn. "We had a strong opponent tonight to give us a test. This tournament gets tougher and tougher as you proceed."
The score stood at 2-1 until just 1:04 into the third period, when P.K. Subban took the puck from end-to-end with a superb single-handed effort and Evander Kane banged in the rebound to restore the two-goal lead for Canada. Canada added some insurance when John Tavares beat the “Grubauer Wall” midway through the period after getting a pass through the crease on the power play. A second power-play goal late in the period from Boychuk brought the final score to 5-1.
Grubauer finished the game with 44 saves in an outstanding effort. Canada out-shot Germany 49-13 in total, as Canadian netminder Chet Pickard saw little action.
Canada has a day off tomorrow to prepare for the key tilt against the Americans on December 31st. At stake will be first place in Group A and the quarter-final bye.
Meanwhile, Germany has a quick turnaround before a critical game against the Czech Republic. The loser of that game will be sent to the relegation round.
"Our goal is to not get relegated," said Krupp. "Whether we're successful or not against the Czechs, our chances are still pretty good with the three points we got against Kazakhstan."
(Nathan also is a writer for Maineiacs Post to Post and the Maine Hockey Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)