The loss of captain Kirby Dach hurts the Canadian team, but head coach André Tourigny believes his roster has long been prepared to face the adversity of the World Junior Hockey Championship.
Canada will play its first preliminaries game on Saturday against Germany, three days after seeing Dach suffer a wrist injury in their only pre-season game against Russia.
Dach, who played 64 games with the Chicago Blackhawks in the NHL last season, will miss the entire tournament. However, this is not what will shake the confidence of Canadian players.
“I think he was the best player on the ice against Russia. It’s a shame we lost his services, but there’s nothing we can do about it, defenseman Bowen Byram said on video conference Friday. We have depth on the attack and we will do our best to replace him. I’m confident we can get the job done anyway. ”
The Canadian team is not at its first tile since the start of its selection camp in mid-November in Red Deer, Alta. This camp was suspended for two weeks due to cases of COVID-19 within the group.
“We’ve been talking about it since August: adversity is part of the World Juniors,” Tourigny hammered. There can be injury, illness, suspensions, controversy. There is also extraordinary media coverage that brings its good and bad sides.
“It’s not if you’re going to face adversity, but when you’re going to face it. The injury to Dach, that’s it. It doesn’t make us happy, it hurts our heart, but we knew it would happen. And he’s going to have more. It’s like that for all teams. ”
In the absence of Dach, Tourigny had to reshuffle his trios. Dylan Cozens has been transferred to the right of Dylan Holloway and Alex Newhook, while Jakob Pelletier will play alongside Quinton Byfield and Dawson Mercer.
Connor Zary, Philip Tomasino and Ryan Suzuki will complete another trio, while Jack Quinn will be on the 13e attacker. The unity of Connor McMichael, Cole Perfetti and Peyton Krebs remains intact.
“The offensive remains well distributed throughout the formation,” Tourigny explained. I think we have a balanced formation with attack and defense on each line. ”
Canada’s opponent on Saturday has also faced its fair share of adversity in recent days. Germany will be deprived of nine players on Saturday as they are in isolation after producing positive samples for COVID-19.
Three players will be able to join their teammates on Sunday and five more on Tuesday, unless they undergo further positive tests.
Levi took his chance
Quebecker Devon Levi will be in net for Canada again on Saturday. Levi, of Dollard-des-Ormeaux, stopped 23 shots in a 1-0 shutout against Russia on Wednesday.
Levi, a 2020 Florida Panthers seventh-round pick, was not invited to Team Canada’s junior virtual camp this summer.
“He still hadn’t played in college or at the major junior level. We thought we could assess it by tracking its start to the season this fall, but due to the situation with COVID, we had to push our research a little more, Tourigny said. We talked to a few more people, we watched videos. His performance at the World Junior A Challenge impressed us and we decided to give him a chance.
“He arrived at selection camp and ‘Barbs’ (Jason LaBarbera, Canadian team goaltender coach) immediately loved him. He’s competitive and he’s fast. He moves his legs very quickly. ”
The first four teams of each group at the end of the preliminary phase will advance to the quarter-finals on January 2. The semi-finals will be presented on January 4 and the medal matches on January 5.
Canada is found in the weaker of the two groups, along with Finland, Switzerland, Slovakia and Germany. Group B is made up of Russia, the United States, Sweden, the Czech Republic and Austria.