Day 3 of the World Junior Championship was about as chalk as most expected. Fans could quibble over whether Germany beating Czechia was an upset (yesterday, we suggested it would be), but the three strong favorites, Russia, Finland, and Sweden handled their business against Switzerland, Austria, and Slovakia respectively. Now, two of those defeated teams will play their second game against the tournament’s two favorites: host nation Canada and the defending gold medalists, the United States.
All eyes will be focused on Owen Power, who became the first Canadian defenseman ever to record a hat trick at the World Junior Championship. The 2021 first overall pick of the Buffalo Sabres will lead his team against Austria in the primetime matchup, continuing his quest to become the first player to ever win World Junior and World Championship gold before making his NHL debut. Before that, though, the United States will return to action against Switzerland. After a fairly narrow escape against Slovakia on Day 1, they’ll hope for a stronger showing against one of the tournament’s biggest underdogs.
Switzerland vs. United States (Red Deer, 4:30 PM)
United States: Team Preview
Switzerland: Team Preview
Switzerland fought hard against Russia, but could not overcome the deficit of Russia’s three consecutive first-period goals. Attilio Biasca opened the scoresheet for the Swiss late in the third, and Fabian Ritzmann joined him two periods later, but the team ultimately fell 4-2. Switzerland struggled to neutralize Russia’s power play, and could not get the puck off the opponents’ stick at times. That job won’t get any easier against a loaded American attack. And the sudden absence of expected team captain Simon Knak, removed from the roster hours before their matchup due to a positive COVID test, won’t help. Lorenzo Canonica, playing in the QMJHL with Shawinigan, whom some analysts were surprised to not see drafted late in the 2021 Draft, will need to step up and score some goals to give Switzerland a shot.
The United States, for their part, probably would have liked a more comfortable debut against Slovakia on Day 1. They clearly are missing the offensive firepower provided last year by Trevor Zegras, who dominated the tournament with 18 points. They’ll want to see more from second-overall pick (and the first-ever pick of the Seattle Kraken) Matty Beniers. He dominated the faceoff dot, which will continue to be integral to the United States’ success, but only collected one secondary assist.
No one player will provide the punch that Zegras did last year, but Logan Cooley, who tallied the primary assist on Matthew Knies’ opening goal on Day 1, will hope to continue to build his case as a top pick in 2022. The team’s key defensemen, Jake Sanderson and Luke Hughes, will continue to be the backbone of the team. But assistant coach Steve Miller, who runs Team USA’s defense, would be wise to manage their minutes as much as possible in these more winnable games.
Favorite: United States
Players to Watch: Lorenzo Canonica (SUI); Matty Beniers [SEA], Logan Cooley (USA)
Austria vs. Canada (Edmonton, 7:00 PM)
Canada: Team Preview
Austria: Team Preview
The biggest moment of the tournament so far remains Owen Power’s incredible hat trick in Canada’s first game. Less is made of Cole Perfetti, who assisted on three consecutive goals, including two of Power’s, to match his blueliner’s three-point night. Like Power, Perfetti also won gold at this summer’s World Championship; however, having played his first two games for the Winnipeg Jets, he isn’t eligible to make the same history that his teammate could by capturing gold here.
Canada has several other players who already have NHL games under their belt, including Mason McTavish (Anaheim Ducks) and Jake Neighbours (St. Louis Blues), both of whom recorded points on Day 1. The top-end skill and experience of the Canadian team will be a tough challenge for any team to overcome, and will likely be far too much for Austria to handle.
Austria, for their part, suffered a 7-1 loss to Finland on Day 2, the most lopsided defeat of the tournament so far. Their lone goal came midway through the Finnish onslaught, off the stick of Martin Urbanek on the power play. The good news for Austria is that the IIHF has again canceled the relegation round this year, meaning they’ll return for their third-straight tournament win or lose. But defeating Canada would register as one of the greatest upsets in WJC history. If they are to have a go at it, they’ll need Marco Kasper, their most-skilled player, and a top 2022 Draft prospect, to step up in a big way.
Players to Watch: Owen Power [BUF], Cole Perfetti [WPG] (CAN); Marco Kasper (AUS)
The Stars Take the Ice
Day 3 is what the World Junior Championship is all about: watching the best and brightest under-20 stars in the world show what they’re made of. And on the positive side, Day 3 features both of the presumptive favorites in the tournament. Unfortunately, due to the quality of opposition, those teams are likely to be participating in little more than a skills demonstration. But stranger things have happened in hockey. If either Switzerland or Austria snatches a victory, it’s certain to be one we’ll talk about for years to come.
All Your THW 2022 World Junior Championship Coverage
Stephen Ground is a veteran of over three years at THW, focusing on the St. Louis Blues, NHL goaltending, and the annual World Junior Championship. He is the co-host of the Two Guys One Cup Podcast, a hockey podcast focused on the Blues.