Owen Power’s hat trick helped Canada overcome a nervous start at the world men’s under-20 hockey championship with a 6-3 doubling of the Czechs on Sunday.
Canada trailed 3-1 during the first period and was an even 3-3 heading into the second. Power’s two power-play goals then broke the tension for the host country at Rogers Place.
The 19-year-old from Mississauga, Ont., became the first Canadian defenseman to score three goals in a single game at the world junior men’s championship.
“I think pucks kind of just found me,” Power stated. “Guys did a good job of getting me good pucks in good spots to shoot.
“There’s been a ton of really good players come and play in these tournaments, so I had no idea that no one had got a hat trick, so definitely just surprised. Doing it at this stage and wearing a Canadian jersey is definitely pretty special.”
The Buffalo Sabres made Power the first overall pick in this year’s NHL entry draft. The University of Michigan rearguard and Canadian teammate Cole Perfetti already won world men’s championship gold medal in June playing for Canada in Riga, Latvia.
Perfetti, a Winnipeg Jets prospect playing for the American Hockey League’s Manitoba Moose, had three assists in the game. The Canadians leaned on the poise of Power and Perfetti in a rocky start.
“It’s huge. It’s the pressure of playing for your country, it’s the excitement of playing for your country, it’s the experience of playing against the best in the world,” Canadian head coach Dave Cameron said.
“I’m sure they drew on-ice experience from it and from a coaching point, we’re drawing on their leadership off-ice from it.”
Mason McTavish had a goal and an assist and defensemen Donovan Sebrango and Olen Zellweger also scored for the host country.
After giving up three goals on seven shots in the opening period, Canadian starting goaltender Dylan Garand stopped the remaining 10 he faced.
Michal Gut had a goal and an assist and Stanislav Svozil and Pavel Novak also scored for what is now Czechia after the Czech hockey federation’s adoption of the country’s name change from “Czech Republic’.
Jakub Malek, a New Jersey Devils prospect, turned away 30 shots in the loss.
Canada is possibly in the easier of the two pools alongside Czechia, Finland, Germany and Austria. Defending champion United States, perennial contender Russia, Sweden, Slovakia and Switzerland comprise Pool B in Red Deer, Alta.
Canada takes on Austria on Tuesday with a match the following day versus Germany before capping the preliminary round on New Year’s Eve against the Finns.
The quarterfinals Jan. 2 and semifinals Jan. 4 precede the medal games Jan. 5 in Edmonton.
Canada fell 2-0 to the Americans in the 2021 final in Edmonton. That tournament was held without spectators because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tickets were sold to the 2022 edition, but the provincial government limited capacity for sporting events to 50 per cent five days before it started. So Edmonton’s Rogers Place is capped at 9,320 spectators and Red Deer’s Centrium at 3,555. While chants of “Let’s Go Canada” erupted at Rogers Place, the arena wasn’t half full for Canada’s opener Sunday. Power’s third goal produced a smattering of hats on the ice.