Bedard paces Canada to win

Bedard paces Canada to win
Bedard paces Canada to win

The Danes gave Canada all it could handle on Sunday at the 2024 IIHF World Championship.

But Canada’s Connor Bedard was the difference, scoring a pair of goals and adding an assist to lead his team to a 5-1 win. Canada is now 2-0 and has six points to sit atop Group A, while Denmark falls to 1-1 but still right in the mix with three points.

Bedard opened the game’s scoring at 2:24 of the first period. He got off a patented toe-drag release from just inside the blue line and the puck found the back of the net past Danish goaltender Frederik Dichow.

The play was initially called no goal on the ice as Canadian Michael Bunting battled for position in front of Dichow and the refs ruled it was goaltender interference. Following video review, though, the officials overturned the call on the ice and Canada led 1-0.

Canada took a two-goal lead at 15:25 of the first when another shot from the point beat Dichow, this one off the stick of Dylan Cozens. Canadian captain John Tavares passed to Cozens, who shot a hard shot in.

“Johnny (Tavares) won the faceoff, Bowen (Byram) made the play down to him and then Johnny made a great pass to me and I just tried to keep it simple and shoot as quickly as I could and it found its way in the net,” Cozens said. “It was a great screen by Nick Paul in front.”

The Danes showed fight throughout the game and cut the deficit to one at 6:15 of the second. Following an offensive flurry by Denmark that forced Canadian goaltender Jordan Binnington to make several fine saves, Christian Wejse picked up the puck in the slot and made a nice deke around Binnington for the goal.

“We had a tough first period,” said Wejse. “We made a lot of mistakes in our own zone where we didn’t get the puck out of our own zone and, then, in the second period I think we kind of came back and played our game. We got more pucks on the net and played a little more gritty and didn’t make too many mistakes.”

The Danes were certainly the better of the two teams in the second but Canada took over in the third.

Bedard’s second of the game came early in the frame. After he knocked down an attempted Danish pass, Bedard pounced on the puck at his own blueline and then carried the puck into the offensive zone. With Dylan Cozens stretching to stay onside, Bedard went in and got a backhand shot on net that Dichow stopped. The rebound, though, ended up behind the Danish net and Cozens was first to the puck and found a wide-open Bedard who had most of the net to shoot at. The Canadian sniper jammed it in for a 3-1 Canadian lead.

Canada’s offense kept on coming, especially during a powerplay with about eight minutes to play. Dichow stood tall, scrambled often and simply battled to make a number of saves during a Canadian shooting brigade during that man advantage. He made 23 saves in the third and 37 in total.

Dawson Mercer scored an empty-netter late in the third and Pierre-Luc Dubois made it 5-1 with a powerplay goal with 21 seconds left.

Binnington wasn’t as busy as his counterpart at the other end of the ice but still came up big when needed. His best save came early in the third when Mathias From made a behind-the-back pass to Alexander True, who was left all alone in front of the net but couldn’t beat Binnington.

Binnington was named Canada’s player of the game and, afterwards, Colton Parayko sang his goalie’s praises. The two players are teammates on the NHL’s St. Louis Blues.

“He’s a great goalie, obviously,” said Parayko, who was hoping to sneak in a piece of cake to celebrate his 31st birthday in Prague. “We’re lucky in St. Louis to have him. I’m lucky to play in front of him all the time. Just to have him over here, he’s a special goalie and a special person. We’re very confident in front of him.”

Canada moved to 7-1-1 all-time against Denmark at the Worlds. Denmark earned its only win against Canada during preliminary-round play at the 2022 tournament in Helsinki by a 3-2 score.

Both teams are off on Monday before returning to action on Tuesday, with Canada taking on Austria and Denmark facing Norway.

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