Canada has begun the World Juniors with a loss.
That doesn’t happen very often.
Beginning the tournament in Halifax on Monday, Czechia scored a major upset over the defending champions and host country, winning 5-2.
— Hockey Canada (@HockeyCanada) December 27, 2022
Team Canada captain Shane Wright scored the opening goal of the game, but Czechia answered back with two first-period goals to take the lead. Canada fell behind 3-1 just 44 seconds into the second period, but cut the lead in half less than a minute later thanks for Connor Bedard.
The turning point of the game came 4:21 into the second period, when Canada’s Zach Dean was assessed a five-minute match penalty and a game misconduct for a hit to the head of Ales Cech.
— The Ray & Dregs Hockey Podcast (@rayanddregs) December 27, 2022
The hit might not have been a penalty in the NHL, but IIHF rules are clear on hits to the head.
The major penalty not only stopped Canada’s momentum, it led to two power-play goals for Czechia to extend their lead to 5-2. That chased Canadian goaltender Benjamin Gaudreau, who was replaced by Thomas Milic.
UPSET WATCH 🚨!!!
— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) December 27, 2022
Goaltender Tomas Suchanek was named Czechia’s player of the game, after stopping 36 of the 38 shots he faced. Wright, who had a goal and an assist, was named Canada’s best player.
Canada’s loss was the second major upset of the day, as Finland lost in overtime to Switzerland.
This was just the second time Canada has begun the World Juniors with a loss since 1984. They last lost their tournament opener seven years ago to USA. Their last loss prior to that was at the 1998 World Juniors, to Finland.
This was the first time in nine years that the Czechs have beaten Canada at the World Juniors, and five goals is the most they’ve ever scored against Canada at this tournament.
Team Canada will get Tuesday off, before playing Germany on Wednesday and Austria on Thursday. Canada wraps up the preliminary round on New Year’s Eve against Sweden. The top four teams in each group will advance to the quarter-finals, which begin January 2.