The first games of the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship were played Saturday in Helsinki, Finland, and while all of Canada watched one Islanders prospect score in a loss, another one was backstopping his team to an opening day win.
Mathew Barzal scored in Team Canada's 4-2 loss to Team USA on Saturday, netting the game's first goal in the second period on a crazy fast play after a crazy fast save by American goalie Alex Nedeljkovic. That's Barzal swooping in at the end to tap that loose puck into the nearly empty net.
Great save by Alex Nedeljkovic, but then Barzal scores. Nice pass by Gauthier. 1- Canada. pic.twitter.com/PyJoePne5f— Marc Dumont (@MarcPDumont) December 26, 2015
Canada lost the game in regulation on Louis Belpedio's third period goal. Auston Matthews, this year's presumptive first overall pick, scored an empty-netter less than a minute later.
Barzal finished with three shots on goal for the game. His fellow Islanders 2015 first rounder Anthony Beauvillier didn't figure in the scoring for Team Canada.
Meanwhile, Sweden whooped Switzerland 8-3, with Islanders prospect Linus Söderström stopping 15 of 18 shots. Söderström , whom we profiled a while back regarding his Aspergers and ADHD, was Sweden's starter at last season's tournament, too. Sweden is going to need strong goaltending if they're going to be without William Nylander for a while. He left the game after taking a high hit and his status is uncertain.
All four players are back in action on Monday.
Advice from Big Brothers
John Tavares and Ryan Strome know all about the pressure Team Canada is under at the World Junior (which is probably even higher now after dropping Game 1 to Uncle Sam). The pros spoke with the Islanders official site to give their advice to Barzal and Beavillier, and to let them know what they're in for.
"Just live in the moment," Strome said. "It happens so quick and it's such a high-pressure stage and there's so many eyes on you. Just live in the moment and play your hardest. It might be your only chance to play for your country ever again. Enjoy it. It's an emotional ride, but just try to stay even keel."
Tavares, a two-time gold medalist, says the sailing isn't always smooth, even for the heaviest of heavy favorites.
We lost a round-robin game in the Czech Republic, gave up the lead in the last minute of the gold medal game and had to win it in OT. In Ottawa we tied the semi-final game with three seconds left, a lot of people thought we there was a good chance we were going to [lose]. We had some things go our way, some key plays made and both were special because of what we had to overcome.
The preliminary round-robin games end on Thursday.