Canada 3, Switzerland 2 (SO)

Box Score

New York (The Draft Analyst)Mathew Barzal scored the deciding goal in a shootout to help Canada notch a 3-2 victory over stubborn Switzerland on Tuesday at the world junior hockey championship from Helsinki, Finland.

Team Canada captain Brayden Point scored the first shootout goal with a backhander up and over Swiss goalie Joren van Pottelberghe, who made 32 saves during regulation and overtime. Mackenzie Blackwood made his debut in goal for Canada (2-1), stopping 23 shots and both of Switzerland’s shootout attempts. The New Jersey Devils draft pick missed Canada’s first two games of the tournament due to a suspension he received from a stick-swinging incident during Ontario Hockey League play.

Switzerland jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals by right wing Damian Riat and Dario Meyer. Center Dylan Strome, the third overall pick in last year’s draft, got Canada within a goal when his shot from the near corner eluded van Pottelberghe’s shoulder and went in with just 23 seconds left in the period.

The two nations traded jabs during a scoreless second period, but defenseman Joe Hicketts’ wrist shot from the high slot beat van Pottelberghe up high to tie the score 2-2 and send the game to overtime.

Left wing Lawson Crouse had two assists for Canada, which earned two of a possible three points from the shootout win and are in second place in Group A. Team Canada faces Sweden on Thursday.

Switzerland lost its third straight game and needs to beat the United States in regulation time on Thursday to avoid relegation and the risk of not qualifying for the 2017 tournament.

Prospect Notes

Canada

C DYLAN STROME (Arizona 1st/2015): Strong game from a kid who has embraced his unexpected leadership role with aplomb. We absolutely killed him for his lackluster OHL postseason last spring, and word was he was nursing an injury. Well, he’s obviously recovered, as he’s following up his solid Super Series for Team OHL with a highly-productive WJC. Strome was logging the big minutes, centering the top power play unit and what turned out to be Canada’s top line. His late goal in the first period was clutch, even if the shot he took from a bad angle gets stopped 99 times out of 100. Still, he sniped the top shelf from the near corner, and with the kind of velocity his shot generates (with little backswing, no less), you can see why he was so decisive in using it from such an unconventional shooting area. However, his cut move towards the hash marks is a bit telegraphed, and we’re starting to see his shots not make it through to the net. He’s got superb vision and passing abilities, so we’ll take a guess that head coach Dave Lowry wants to see him use them more often.

LHD JOE HICKETTS (Detroit/UDFA): It chapped us a little to hear some scribes north of the border call this veteran puck mover a “goat” after he inadvertently tipped in the eventual game winner in a 4-2 loss to the United States. Hicketts played his best game of the tournament against the Swiss, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for what looked liked a fatigued Canadian squad. He was all over the ice; playing the body, whipping the puck through traffic and jump-starting the rush from his own line. We identified a lot of puck fumbling and indecisiveness by most of Canada’s defensemen, with some seeing their ice time shortened as the game intensified. One play which caught our attention was his handling of Denis Malgin’s pesky forecheck. Hicketts went back to his own end to retrieve a puck, then had to twist and turn to avoid turning the puck. Ultimately, Hicketts had to do it a few times before Malgin was forced to trip him up. Of course, Hicketts’ game-tying goal — a blistering wrist shot from the high slot over van Pottelberghe’s glove — was a result of his keen sense and positioning, and he almost did the same in overtime, where he easily played close to four of the five minute session.

G MACKENZIE BLACKWOOD (New Jersey 2nd/2015): Don’t listen to some of the experts. Blackwood didn’t look rusty, and neither goal against was a byproduct of a long layoff, or nerves, or whatever hogwash was being peddled during the early portion of the game. Blackwood is one cool cat, and both goals against him were deflected from right in front of the goal. His lateral movement was outstanding, but his net awareness was somewhat questionable. It didn’t hurt him, however, as the Swiss, even when uncovered, were getting pushed deeper and deeper into bad angle chances. The clinching stop he made in the shootout — a glove save after a nice backhand deke by Pius Suter — revealed his quickness. But he got lucky when Timo Meier ignored a significant gap on his blocker side and missed while going five hole.

LW LAWSON CROUSE (Florida 1st/2015): The pre-game lineup card listed the imposing Crouse on the fourth line, which we thought was absurd when you consider how the Swiss were guaranteed to try to physically intimidate the Canadians. Nevertheless, it took a 2-0 deficit for Lowry to wake up and start giving Crouse key minutes. He began to throw his weight around, and the ice slowly began to open up for him. It was he who initiated the play which finalized with Strome’s crucial goal at the end of the first, and it was Crouse again who showed patience, vision and smarts by hitting Hicketts in stride for his goal from the high slot. Yes…the name Crouse and the word vision were used in the same sentance. He had a heck of a game, so don’t expect him to start on the fourth line against Sweden.

Switzerland

G JOREN VAN POTTELBERGHE (Detroit 4th/2015): Captain Obvious gave us a call this morning and stated the only chance the Swiss had against Canada was scoring the first goal and getting van Pottelberghe to play the game of his young life. Well, the theory almost became a reality, as Switzerland scored the first two goals of the game and van Pottelberghe played out of his mind. The bad news? He completely misplayed Dylan Strome’s wrister, which may have been shot from the Zamboni entrance before it snuck under his shoulder and into the back of the net. That kind of net unawareness is disconcerting, as we asked ourselves, “How can you NOT feel your shoulder touching iron”? Well he didn’t, and the goal he allowed with under 30 seconds left in the first turned out to be a game changer. Nevertheless, the game doesn’t get to overtime without van Pottelberghe’s heroics. He was quick on his feet and gave the attacking Canadians little to shoot at once inside the hash marks.

RW TIMO MEIER (San Jose 1st/2015): You just wish Meier had that extra gear, because he really is a pleasure to watch when he’s doing everything else. Too bad we feel that way when we watch him play for the Halifax Mooseheads, because he’s been a complete non-factor for the Swiss in Helsinki. Meier didn’t have a strong game, and getting posterized from a Joe Hicketts hit (that’s THE 5’8 Joe Hicketts) wasn’t even the low point, as he ignored a half a yawning cage on his shootout attempt, which was shot directly into Blackwood’s pads. He wasn’t even credited with a shot on goal, although we counted several attempts. The Swiss are a loss away from relegation, and Meier’s lack of productivity has a lot to do with it.

RW NOAH ROD  (San Jose 2nd/2014): Smart, engaged, skilled, versatile…we’re running out of adjectives to describe this two-way threat who was used a ton as the minutes ticked closer towards overtime. Rod has been Switzerland’s go-to guy, as he’s been asked to do anything and everything related to getting dirty. His rocket off a Denis Malgin cross-ice feed was tipped home to open the scoring, giving him one point in each of his three games. He did, however, lose his cool after a whistle when he clocked Mitch Marner right in the grill and had to feel shame for two minutes.

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