Canada's Brayden Schenn celebrates with Erik Gudbranson (#5) and Ryan Johansen (#19) following following a goal against Norway. Photo: Matthew Manor / HHOF-IIHF Images
Spoiler alert. You’re going to get the score up front, or at least part of it. That’s because the lead story to this game involves records. In an amazing display of offense, Brayden Schenn of Team Canada tied the record for the most goals scored in a single WJC game at 4. Who else holds that record, you ask? Oh, just this Simon Gagne dude and some hack named Mario Lemieux. Schenn entered a ring of elite players last night, and his name will forever be mentioned in the same breath as two NHL greats when goals at the World Junior Championships are discussed. Another guy who went down in the record books is Ryan Ellis. With his 3 assists on the night, Ellis moved into sole possession of the most points scored by a defenseman in the WJCs. His 23rd point came in only his 15th game and moved him in front of Finland's Reijo Ruotsalainen, who recorded his 21 points in 24 games. Pretty amazing, if you ask me.
As for the rest of the game, well, let’s just say Brayden wasn’t the only Canadian introducting pucks to twine. Although Canada was down to 10 forwards (Jaden Schwartz and Cody Eakin were out with injuries, as was defenseman Calvin de Haan; Zack Kassian was serving the first of his two-game suspension), the team was still an incredibly potent group of players.
Canada came out hittin’ and kept it up throughout the game. They laid out some of the biggest hits and checks I’ve seen so far in the tournament, two or three in one shift sometimes. The Nords looked like they were in a pinball machine at times. They also seemed jittery as they turned over the puck constantly, unable to connect on passes. Early in the first, one of their forwards tried to break out of the zone, but twisted a knee or ankle or something and went down inexplicably, looking hurt. Brett Connolly didn’t stop to ask what happened; he just picked up the puck, slid it across the crease to Casey Cizikas, and celebrated a goal. This would be the first of many times Norwegian goalie Steffen Soberg would watch the other team celebrate.
Shortly thereafter, Canada won a clean face off, dropping the puck back to the blueline where it was shot purposefully wide to the left of the net. It bounced off the boards out to the right side where Ryan Johansen grabbed it, cruised behind the net and sent the puck to Schenn across the crease for his first of the night. This put the Canadians up 2-0.
Norway got a little bit of offense going by using their speed along the boards and getting shots off quickly. Mark Vesentin, who started in goal for Canada as they were coming off a game last night, made good on the action he saw. Though he had a bit of trouble controlling his rebounds, he was usually able to get back into position quickly to stop the second attempt. Norway continued to challenge offensively - they settled down more and more as the game continued - which provided for some nice back and forth play.
Canada got their third goal off a hard, high velocity slap shot from the point by Erik Gudbranson. I don’t think Soberg is used to seeing shots like that because he looked completely stunned. The three to nothing score jumped up to four-nothing moments later as Louis LeBlanc scored a wrap-around from behind the net. He worked hard for that goal, using his body to protect the puck as he muscled off a defender along the boards. It was a pretty weak goal, though, and I’m sure Soberg would like it back.
Norway didn’t let that deflate them, however, as they came right back and scored themselves. From the face off, Rasmus Juell took control of the puck and created space as he weaved between four Canadian players to beat Visentin. Norway couldn’t hold on to the 4-1 score, though. Schenn received a long, cross-ice pass while moving into the offensive zone and sent a wrister home for his second of the night. At 5-1, Soberg didn’t even wait to be called off the ice. He just skated to the bench without looking back while Lars Volden quickly got his gear situated and his butt on the ice. With about five minutes left in the period, Canada had put 12 shots on net...and scored on almost half of them.
They weren’t done yet, however, as Marcus Foligno wanted to get in on the action, too. It was a weird goal; Foligno moved pretty slowly into the zone, fumbled the puck on his first attempt, but gathered it together again - all while he was moving toward the net - and scored. The period ended with a tally of six to one in favor of the Canadians.
Canada showed they were the faster team in the first, regularly winning races to the puck. Norway was pretty good along the boards and in the battles down low, but they were simply outmatched that period. It seems they have been historically, too, as the last win Norway had in the WJCs was in 1990. This game would end up being their 16th consecutive loss. Ouch.
The scoring slowed way down in the second period with only one goal recorded. Schenn got the hat trick as Quinton Howden strolled right into the offensive zone and passed the puck to Schenn who just threw it on net. It was probably the softest goal I’ve seen the past few days. So now the Canadians had scored 7 goals on 17 shots. You would think that Norway wasn’t getting anything going, but surprisingly, they were just about even on shots. The Nords were just kept to the outside for bad angle attempts, and Visentin was on his game.
Trying to contain the speed of Canada, Norway’s Nicolai Bryhnisveen took a holding penalty, sending their opponents on the power play. The Canadians kept the Norwegians battling in their own zone for nearly the entire time, but Norway’s defensive play and Volden's spectacular goaltending kept Canada off the scoreboard. Taking momentum with them, they moved quickly into the Canadian zone, but had too many men on the ice in the process. Again, the Nords did a great job on the PK and didn’t let Canada get much going.
Record-breaker Ellis (whose agent, none other than The Bobby Orr, was in attendance), slashed away at Norway’s Hans Kristian
Anderson Hollstedt, and the Norwegians got the man-advantage. They did a great job of cycling the puck and keeping it in the zone, but Visentin stoned them, keeping the score at 7-1 as the period ended.
The first half of the third period was just a lot of back and forth action, with both teams playing very good hockey. Most of the turnovers were the result of solid defensive play by the opposing team, and rushes into the zone, in addition to shots that created nice offensive opportunities, were frequent. I started to think this paragraph wasn’t going to be very long, but then Canada got on a roll. First, Schenn scored that fourth goal which tied him for the record. Tyson Barrie got the assist on that one by pinching in and putting a shot on net. Schenn picked up the rebound and simply beat Volden. Then Sean Couturier scored off of a tip in which was the result of some solid puck movement starting at the blueline. Gudbranson wasn’t satisfied with just one goal, so he one-timed it from the circle off a rebound.
Had Norway played the entire game like they did the 30 minutes from the second through the middle of the third, this would have been a competitive game. Alas, they did not, and Canada ran away with a 10-1 victory.
Players of the Game:
Canada - Erik Gudbranson - not exactly sure how this happened...Gudbranson had 2 goals, 1 assist was a +5 (not bad, but mind you...) Schenn had 4 goals, 1 assist and was a +6. Odd.
Norway - Tobias Skaarberg - 0 points/0 assists (You’re probably wondering why he is their player of the game. Well, every other member of the team was a minus-something. Skaargerg ended the night even.)
Next up for Canada: Sweden, Dec. 31st, 4pm MT/6pm ET