It didn’t have the atmosphere of Canada-Russia classics of days past. And it certainly wasn’t as competitive as we’d expect when Canada and Russia face each other on the ice.
Canada scored four first-period goals in front of a sparse gathering of fans at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Thursday, en route to a 6-4 win over the Russians in World Junior Hockey Championship pre-tournament play.
Summit Series this was not, as this game was not as close as the score might indicate.
Mason McTavish, a 2021 first-round pick of the Anaheim Ducks, scored twice and added an assist to pace the Canadians. His linemate, Columbus Blue Jackets’ draft pick Kent Johnson, had a goal and an assist.
WATCH | Canada downs Russia in world juniors exhibition:
Matvei Michkov scored twice for the Russians, and was named his team’s player of the game.
Thursday’s pre-tournament game with Russia drew a gathering in the hundreds to Rogers Place. From the media area in the eighth level of the building, reporters were able to hear players calling to each other on the ice.
A surge in COVID-19 cases forced tournament organizers to rejig the pre-WJC schedule. Each participating team had its exhibition schedule reduced to one game each — with all face-offs set for Dec. 23. Then, on Tuesday, the province of Alberta restricted seating capacity to 50 per cent for all major sporting events, and limited the consumption of food and drink in major arenas.
Those few people in attendance saw McTavish begin the first-period flurry at 6:25 with a power-play marker, slamming home a rebound from a Johnson shot past Russian netminder Yaroslav Askarov.
Less than a minute later, it was 2-0; Ridly Greig’s shot went in and out of the net so quickly, video review was needed to confirm the goal.
The Canadian surge continued. A Russian giveaway led to a Canadian two-on-one, with McTavish setting up Johnson at 12:25. Lukas Cormier finished the first-period goal-fest with a power-play marker.
The Russians came to life in the second period, albeit too little, too late. The visitors got on the board at 2:27 of the second period. An intended pass from Semyon Demidov ricocheted in off the skate of Canadian defenceman Donovan Sebrango. In soccer, that would be credited as an own goal, a nod to Sebrango’s famous soccer father, Eddie Sebrango, who played for both the former Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps.
Matvei Michkov’s power-play goal at the 11:00 mark reduced the Russian deficit to two.
Conor Bedard re-extended the Canadian lead to three in the third, burying a pass from Cole Perfetti.
Michkov made it 6-4 right before the final horn, making the score more respectable than deserved for the Russians.
Dylan Garand stopped 14 of 15 shots for Canada. Cossa, who plays for the hometown Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL, came in halfway through the game and stopped just eight of 11. Askarov stopped 28 of 29 shots before being replaced by Yegor Guskov, who turned aside eight of nine.
Russian coach Sergei Zubov did not select any North American-based players for his team, including Edmonton Oilers draft pick Matvey Petrov, currently third in OHL scoring race, with 49 points in 29 games.