Lafreniere won’t play against Germany; world junior status up in the air

Lafreniere won’t play against Germany; world junior status up in the air

OSTRAVA, Czech Republic — Alexis Lafreniere flashed a smile as he watched the tail end of practice Sunday.

There was also a clear sense of relief.

After crumpling to the ice and clutching his left knee in agony after an awkward fall some 18 hours earlier, it was revealed the star winger will miss Canada’s next game at the world junior hockey championship.

Lafreniere hasn’t, however, been ruled out for the rest of the tournament.

“He’s walking,” assistant coach Andre Tourigny said Sunday, adding in a separate media availability with French reporters that an MRI done on the joint showed no fracture or structural damage to ligaments. “It’s positive news.”

Canada could certainly use some after getting spanked 6-0 by Russia on Saturday in the most lopsided defeat for the national program in the under-20 event’s 44-year history.

Lafreniere, who was hurt early in the second period, sat in the penalty box Sunday as his teammates went through their paces. He then got up and walked towards the locker room without any sign of a brace or limp.

“As a coach, we try to know if (Lafreniere) will play,” Tourigny added. “(The doctor) didn’t say he will play, but he didn’t say he won’t.”

Lafreniere will definitely watch Canada’s game with Germany on Monday, but could be available Tuesday against the host Czech Republic or when the medal round starts Thursday.

“He’s smiling around the boys and making jokes,” Tourigny said. “He’s pretty loose right now, so it’s a good sign.”

The reigning CHL Player of the Year and projected No. 1 pick at the 2020 NHL draft, Lafreniere scored the winner and added three assists in an electric 6-4 victory over the United States on Boxing Day.

The native of Saint-Eustache, Que., has 23 goals and 70 points in 32 games this season with the QMJHL’s Rimouski Oceanic.

“It’s hard for him to not be out here,” Canadian captain Barrett Hayton said. ”We love having him around and the energy he brings.”

Hayton, meanwhile, issued a second mea culpa for failing to remove his helmet during the Russian national anthem following the blowout defeat.

“I just really want to apologize … to the Russians, their team and to everyone,” said the 19-year-old, who released a statement through the sport’s national body late Saturday. ”I had no intent behind it, but I have to own my actions.”

The Canadians went through a spirited practice Sunday in hopes of putting the Russia game in the rear-view mirror.

They were second-best in almost every area against a desperate opponent coming off a 4-3 loss to the Czechs in the tournament’s curtain-raiser.

“Give a lot of credit to the Russians,” Tourigny said. ”They played hard. They had more urgency than us. Their battle level was higher than ours. That is something we can control, so that’s good news”

Hayton said the Canadians, who sit with one win and one loss in a congested Group B, allowed complacency to creep into their game.

“It was definitely a wake-up call,” he said. “They really took it to us.”

The immediate beneficiaries of Lafreniere’s absence are Connor McMichael, the OHL’s leading scorer until he left for the national team and a member of head coach Dale Hunter’s London Knights, and Dawson Mercer — the 13th forward for the first two contests.

McMichael skated on a line with Hayton and Nolan Foote at practice, while Mercer suited up alongside Joe Veleno and Quinton Byfield.

“I’m not doubting our team for a minute,” McMichael said. ”We’ll be a lot better.”

The first player from Newfoundland and Labrador to compete at the world juniors since 2010, Mercer knew coming in he would have to wait his turn.

“I wanted to make sure I still motivated the guys,” said the product of Bay Roberts. “You can only move up in the lineup.”

The biggest question ahead of the Germany tilt is one that’s dominated the conversation all month — the crease.

Starting goalie Nico Daws has allowed eight goals on 50 shots in just over four periods of action. Joel Hofer, meanwhile, stopped made 20 saves in relief against Russia, but hasn’t played a full game since Dec. 8 in the WHL.

It’s been even longer for Olivier Rodrigue, the third option. He hasn’t seen any action since selection camp.

“We all feel good,” said Daws, who came out of nowhere this season to grab the No. 1 job. ”We’re all ready to go.”

For his part, Hofer didn’t have time to be nervous in his own international debut.

“I kind of got thrown in,” he said. ”Obviously the three of us want to play and represent our country.”

Rodrigue is the only goalie with Hockey Canada experience prior to this month, including a gold medal at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in 2017.

“I’m always ready if they need me,” said the Edmonton Oilers’ prospect. ”If they (call) my name, I’ll be ready.”

Tourigny said it’s important the players exhale after that disastrous performance against Russia.

“You don’t want to create any panic,” Tourigny said. ”When you sit on the edge of your seat and you think, ‘Next mistake I will lose my job’ … it’s a tough place to be.

“That’s a bad pressure.”

Canada already has enough of that.

Just Posted

(Advocate file photo)
Man charged following police chases last summer is sentenced

Alexander Michael Talbot sentenced to 22 months in prison

COVID-19 test kit. (Black Press Media file photo)
Red Deer businesses can order COVID testing kits from the Chamber

Kits are being provided through a partnership with the Alberta government

(Advocate file photo)
Pastor, candidate under restraining order arrested for allegedly breaking COVID laws

CALGARY — A Calgary mayoral candidate who is under a restraining order… Continue reading

Pro-Palestinian protesters run from police following a demonstration in Montreal, Sunday, May 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Tensions flare at Israel-Palestinian demonstrations in Montreal, Toronto

Tensions ran high at competing demonstrations over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in both… Continue reading

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, then-vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, participates in a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. An expert in military affairs says the sudden departure of the  general in charge of Canada's vaccine rollout is unlikely to have any impact on the high-profile program. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Canada to get 4.5M vaccine doses as questions swirl around immunization effort

OTTAWA — Canada is set to receive a large infusion of COVID-19… Continue reading

Mayor Rick Bonnett. (Screenshot)
WATCH: Ponoka council calls on gov’t to support rural small businesses

Ponoka council is calling on the provincial government to increase funding to… Continue reading

The Red Deer Rebels have acquired goaltender Connor Ungar from the Brandon Wheat Kings, the team announced Monday. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer Rebels acquire goaltender Connor Ungar

The Red Deer Rebels have acquired goaltender Connor Ungar from the Brandon… Continue reading

A woman attends a vigil in front of the hospital where Joyce Echaquan died in Joliette, Que., on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Hospital staff testify today at Quebec coroner’s inquiry into death of Joyce Echaquan

TROIS-RIVIÈRES, Que. — Medical staff from a Quebec hospital where Joyce Echaquan… Continue reading

Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on February 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Ottawa looking for 2,000 new energy auditors to get home retrofit program going

OTTAWA — The federal government is looking to train 2,000 more people… Continue reading

A person waits outside a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Sunday, May 9, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Ontario opens shots to 18+, Quebec opens drive-thru, as COVID vaccine efforts expand

Quebec is opening a drive-thru vaccine clinic at its busiest airport and… Continue reading

Calgary Flames players celebrate the team's overtime win against the Vancouver Canucks during an NHL hockey game in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, May 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Lindholm OT winner gives Flames 6-5 win over Canucks despite blowing four-goal lead

VANCOUVER — In a game with little to play for besides pride,… Continue reading

In this photo taken on May 13, 2021, Russia's performer, Manizha, smiles during an interview after rehearsing at the Eurovision Song Contest at Ahoy arena in Rotterdam, Netherlands. For many, the stage and global television audience of millions is a chance to express messages of inclusion, strength and positivity. Manizha has a message of strength for women in her song whose lyrics include the lines: "Every Russian Woman. Needs to know. You're strong enough to bounce against the wall." (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)
Eurovision Song Contest returns despite coronavirus pandemic

ROTTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) — Pounding beats? Check. Uplifting lyrics? Check. Huge, backlit… Continue reading

Serena Williams of the United States returns the ball to Italy's Lisa Pigato during their match at the Emilia Romagna Open tennis tournament, in Parma, Monday, May 17, 2021. Serena Williams earned her first victory in more than three months by beating 17-year-old qualifier Lisa Pigato 6-3, 6-2 in the first round of the Emilia-Romagna Open. Williams accepted a wild-card invitation for the Parma tournament after losing her opening match at the Italian Open last week. (AP Photo/Marco Vasini)
Serena Williams posts 1st victory in more than 3 months

PARMA, Italy (AP) — Serena Williams earned her first victory in more… Continue reading

In this Oct. 21, 2014 file photo, people pass an AT&T store in New York's Times Square. AT&T will combine its media operations that include CNN HBO, TNT and TBS in a $43 billion deal with Discovery, the owner of lifestyle networks including the Food Network and HGTV. The deal announced Monday, May 17, 2021, would create a separate media company as households increasingly abandon cable and satellite TV, looking instead at Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Facebook, TikTok and YouTube. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
AT&T, Discovery join media brands as cord-cutting encroaches

NEW YORK (AP) — AT&T will combine its massive media operations that… Continue reading

Most Read