Connor Bedard had a goal and an assist and Canada opened its world junior hockey championship with a decisive 5-2 victory over Latvia on Wednesday.
Ridly Greig and William Dufour each scored and contributed a helper, while Lukas Cormier and Olen Zellweger also found the back of the net. Captain Mason McTavish notched two assists for Canada (1-0-0).
Rainers Darzins and Bogdans Hodass put away goals for the Latvians, who were coming off a 6-1 drubbing by Finland on Tuesday.
Canada’s Sebastian Cossa made 24 saves and Patriks Berzins stopped 39 of 44 shots for Latvia (0-2-0).
The 2022 tournament is being held in August after the original iteration was called off on Dec. 29 after just four days as rising COVID-19 cases among players and officials forced games to be forfeited.
Bedard opened the scoring 7:31 into the game, blasting a shot through a pair of Latvian defenders and over Berzins’ glove from the top of the slot.
The 17-year-old Bedard, a forward for the Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League, is an early favourite to be picked first overall in the 2023 NHL entry draft.
Connor Bedard scores goals. 🚨<a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/WorldJuniors?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#WorldJuniors</a> <a href=”https://t.co/O8rQ3oK3Ke”>pic.twitter.com/O8rQ3oK3Ke</a>
Dufour gave the Canadians some breathing room with 5:16 to go in the third period. The New York Islanders prospect collected a slick pass from Greig and sending a quick shot in past Berzins to give his side a 5-2 lead.
Canada broke out with a three-goal performance in the second but found themselves in trouble in the final frame due to a series of undisciplined penalties.
Latvia got nine seconds of five-on-three play midway through the third when Greig was called for hooking after Kent Johnson had already been sent to the box for delay of game.
The Canadians weathered being down two men and Cossa preserved the advantage with a collection of timely stops.
Earlier in the period, Latvia cut the deficit to 4-2 on a power play after Greig was called for tripping.
Greig capped a big middle frame by collecting a pass from Dufour along the boards for an odd-man rush and poking a puck past Berzins at the 16:16 mark.
WATCH l Greig scores one-handed goal:
A power-play goal gave the Canadians a three-goal lead after Latvia captain Ralfs Bergmanis was called for slashing.
Bedard set up the play with a no-look backwards pass to Zellweger at the blue line. The defenceman wound up and fired a rocket through traffic, finding the back of the net 12:17 into the second.
Bedard ➡️ Zellweger ➡️ GOAL<br><br>Olen Zellweger’s point shot finds its way through traffic and Canada takes a 3-1 lead!<br><br>🔗: <a href=”https://t.co/pj2fBq4xtg”>https://t.co/pj2fBq4xtg</a><a href=”https://t.co/ioinesEo06″>pic.twitter.com/ioinesEo06</a>
Less than a minute earlier, Cormier scored with the man advantage after Dans Locmelis was called for roughing.
Joshua Roy calmed a bouncing puck and dished it to Cormier, who sent it sailing past Berzins from the top of the faceoff circle.
Canada’s power play looked to be in trouble on its first attempt of the tournament earlier in the period.
The Canadians went 1 for 4 on the power play Wednesday and Latvia was 1 for 5.
Canada kept Berzins busy across the first period, outshooting Latvia 18-4.
The host nation dominated play but Latvia scored the equalizer with less than two minutes to play in the opening frame. Darzins chipped a shot up and over Cossa stick side to make it 1-1.
Earlier Tuesday, Winnipeg Jets prospect Daniel Torgersson scored twice as Sweden (1-0-0) took a 3-2 victory over Switzerland (0-1-0) in Group B play.
The final game of the day is a clash between Germany (0-1-0) and Austria (0-0-0).
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