Game Day Preview: Team Canada Opens Knockout Round vs. Team Slovakia in Quarterfinal

Connor Bedard Grabs a Stick From Bench at World Juniors Tournament
Connor Bedard Grabs a Stick From Bench at World Juniors Tournament Photo credit: Andy Devlin/Getty Images

It’s game day, Canada! Tonight at 6:30 pm EST, Team Canada will take on Team Slovakia in the quarterfinal of the World Juniors! Team Canada comes into tonight’s game after finishing second in Group A, while Team Slovakia finished third in Group B. The winner of this match will progress through to the next round, while the losing side will be eliminated. This should be a fun match-up with an electric crowd! Team Slovakia should give Team Canada a pretty good fight, especially after beating the United States 6-3. Let’s dive into tonight’s game a little more! 

Let’s start off with Team Canada. The home side finished with a 3-0-0-1 record in the preliminary round. The team’s only defeat was in the opener to Team Czechia as they defeated Canada 5-2. After a tough opening loss, Team Canada has seemingly found their rhythm, especially from an offensive perspective! Team Canada has now scored 27 goals in their last three games. That’s an average of 9 goals per game. With Team Canada’s offensive talent, it’s no surprise they can score like nothing when everything’s clicking. However, in an elimination game, can Team Canada’s offense continue to work at such a crazy rate? When you have a generational prospect Connor Bedard who continues to break records, mixed in with the performances of Shane Wright, Dylan Guenther, and so many others, it’s extremely difficult to count out this squad. Team Canada Head Coach Dennis Williams has confirmed that goaltender Thomas Milic will start this game. Milic has been the starter for all of Team Canada’s games after Benjamin Gaudreau was pulled in the opener. Milic has had some good moments so far, nothing outstanding, but if he can keep his play simple and be there when called upon, Team Canada should be successful. I’m excited to see what Team Canada can do in this one tonight, especially the offense entering the knockout games. 

As for Team Slovakia, the Slovaks finished with a 2-0-1-0 record in the preliminary round. A shocking victory over Team USA after losing 5-2 to Team Finland. The game definitely turned some heads. The group, headlined by New Jersey Devils 2nd overall pick Simon Nemec, expect this group to play loose hard and make Canada work for its offense. Nemec is a mobile offensive defenseman that’s extremely fun to watch! However, he’s not the only player to keep an eye out for tonight. One of my favorite prospects at last year’s draft, forward Filip Mesar, continues to show flashes of promise. After being selected in the 1st round by the Montreal Canadiens, Mesar continues to show signs of being a future NHL contributor for the Habs. Nemec and Mesar are pretty popular names; if you want to go a little deeper, make sure you watch for Slovakia forwards Adam Sykora and Servac Petrovsky! Sykora was selected in the 2nd round of the 2022 NHL entry draft by the New York Rangers. Sykora isn’t necessarily known for his size, but he certainly plays a fast game. Sykora is a high-intensity player that is always moving on the ice. He doesn’t give his opponents much time with the puck and isn’t afraid to win it back. A unique skill set for modern-day prospects makes Adam, so fun to watch. Of course, he’s also got tools to perform offensively! However, take too long with the puck, and don’t be surprised Sykora steals it from you in a flash! As for Servac, the 18-year-old forward from the Owen Sound Attack in the OHL is certainly a weapon offensively. His ability to get into space and use his shot is what he does best, quickly finding gaps in coverage and burning his opponents. It’ll be important that Team Canada’s structure is strong tomorrow. If not, it could be troubling against an underrated side full of talent like Slovakia. 

As for predictions in this one, I’m taking Team Canada to win 3-2! I like Team Slovakia’s roster, but I still think Team Canada’s momentum should pull through. Scoring a whopping 27 goals in three games isn’t nothing, and despite the good talent the Slovaks have, I can’t see it being enough. The last time these two sides met, Team Canada emerged victorious after an 11-1 rout in August for the 2022 World Juniors. I can’t wait for this one tonight. It’ll be a fun one as last year’s 2nd overall and 4th overall picks from the NHL entry draft go head to head! 

Thanks for reading! For more hockey content, follow me on Twitter at ITR_Anselmo. Enjoy tonight’s game!

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Joshua Anselmo

A hockey mind that's always looking at new and insightful ways to bring different perspectives of the game we all love.

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