OSTRAVA, Czech Republic – Alexis Lafrenière (Saint-Eustache, Que./Rimouski, QMJHL) scored the game-winning goal and added three assists to lead Canada’s National Junior Team to a come-from-behind 6-4 victory over the United States in the opening game for both Thursday at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship.
The win ended a four-game losing streak to the U.S., and improved Canada’s all-time record against its North American neighbours to 33-11-3 since the first World Juniors in 1977.
Lafrenière picked up three of his four points in the decisive third period, including the game-winner; just seven seconds after Shane Pinto had completed the American comeback from a two-goal deficit, Lafrenière knocked down a D-to-D pass in the U.S. zone and tucked the puck around goaltender Spencer Knight.
He also set up Canadian captain Barrett Hayton (Peterborough, Ont./Arizona, NHL) for both of his power-play goals and earned a helper on the empty-net goal by Ty Dellandrea (Port Perry, Ont./Flint, OHL).
The game was dominated by special teams – six of the 10 goals came on the man advantage.
The U.S. used its power play to take a 2-0 first-period lead; Pinto tipped in a Zac Jones shot just 3:10 in, and Arthur Kaliyev hammered a one-timer past Canadian netminder Nico Daws (Burlington, Ont./Guelph, OHL) late in the opening frame.
The second period belonged to the Canadians, starting with Akil Thomas (Toronto, Ont./Niagara, OHL) setting up Connor McMichael (Ajax, Ont./London, OHL) for the 2-1 goal early in the stanza.
Hayton got his first at 6:34 to tie the game, ripping a one-timer past Knight, and Nolan Foote (Kelowna, B.C./Kelowna, WHL) lasered a wrist shot over the short-side shoulder of the American goaltender on another power play less than seven minutes later to give the Canadians their first lead.
The final 10 minutes of the third period were absolutely crazy, with the teams combining for five goals.
Lafrenière dangled his way to the net before slipping a cross-crease feed to Hayton to make it 4-2 midway through the final frame, but the U.S. was far from finished.
Nick Robertson made it a one-goal game at 12:45, letting go a shot from between the hashmarks that beat Daws upstairs, and he went across the crease for Pinto at 16:42 to draw the Americans even.
But the immediate response from Lafrenière put the Canadians ahead for good, and Dellandrea clinched the three points into the empty net with just 69 seconds left.
Shots on goal finished even, 32-32.
Canada gets back to action Saturday when it takes on Russia (1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT).
(Source: Hockey Canada)
(Photos: Andrea Leigh Cardin / HHOF-IIHF Images)