It was a battle of David and Goliath at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Wednesday evening as the hosts, Canada, took on Latvia, who are in the top division of the World Juniors for the first time since the 2017 tournament as a replacement for Russia, who is banned by the IIHF.
Canada opened the scoring nearly half-way through the first period. Projected first overall pick in 2023, Connor Bedard, picked up the puck in the neutral zone and skated into the Latvian zone. Bedard then rips a shot past Latvian goaltender Patrick Berzins' glove to make it 1-0 Canada.
Check out this alternate camera view of Bedard's goal. His poise is on full display and he drags the puck and releases it. Bedard's release is arguably the best attribute in his game, along with his vision and hockey IQ.
Flash forward to later in the first period with 1:54 remaining, the Latvians got on the board. Latvian forward Rainers Darzins brought the puck into the Canadian zone, made a nice move to cut into the middle of the ice and put the puck just under the bar and past Sebastian Cossa to tie the game at 1-1.
The game remained knotted up at 1-1 until under nine minutes left in the second period when Canada was on the powerplay. Canadian defenceman Lukas Cormier threw the puck on net through traffic and it beat Berzins to give Canada a 2-1 lead.
Roughly five minutes later, on the powerplay once again, Canada added to their lead. 2021-22 WHL Defenceman of the Year Olen Zellweger fired the puck threw a screen to put Canada up 3-1.
Canada followed that up less than a minute later with a highlight reel goal. Ottawa Senators prospect Ridly Greig went in on a breakaway and while trying to hold off a Latvian defender, the 20-year-old poked the puck one-handed through Patrick Berzins to extend Canada's lead to 4-1.
Early in the third period on the powerplay, the Latvians scored their second goal of the game. Medicine Hat Tigers defenceman Bogdans Hodass one-timed it past Sebastian Cossa to cut Canada's lead to two.
New York Islanders prospect William Dufour, who led the QMJHL in goals this past season, got Canada on the board again with their fifth goal of the game late in the third period. Ridly Greig picked the puck up deep in Latvia's zone, skated up the wall and cut into the middle. Greig drew a couple of Latvian players to him, which opened Dufour, who dragged the puck and ripped it to put Canada up 5-2. Players of the GameCanada: