BUFFALO, N.Y. — Turns out, Christian Wohlwend was right after all.
Drake Batherson scored twice as Canada cruised to an 8-2 quarterfinal win over Switzerland on Tuesday at the world junior hockey tournament. That lopsided score came two days after Wohlwend, the Swiss team’s head coach, said he expected the Canadians to easily beat his team.
Things went so well for Canada that Batherson drew an unofficial assist in the second period while on the bench. He saw Jordan Kyrou coming off the ice after breaking his stick and realized they’re both right-handed.
Stopping Kyrou from getting on to Canada’s bench, Batherson handed over his stick and sent Kyrou back out. Kyrou coasted toward Switzerland’s net totally unmarked by defenders, corralled a pass from Sam Steel and snapped the puck into the net for a 5-0 Canada lead.
Upon scoring, Kyrou pointed at the stick, then shouted to Batherson.
“He said he kind of mishandled it a little bit, mine’s a totally different curve than his,” said Batherson. “I think he likes it now that he scored with it so maybe I’ll give him some more sticks.”
Batherson scored moments before Kyrou did but felt he should have finished the game with three points.
“Kyrou pointed at me from the ice but I thought I could’ve gotten the third assist or something,” said Batherson with a chuckle.
Canada will face the Czech Republic in semifinal action Thursday. The Czechs advanced with a 4-3 quarterfinal shootout win over Finland earlier Tuesday.
The Canadians beat the Czech Republic 9-0 on Dec. 20 in a pre-tournament exhibition game in London, Ont. But the Czechs didn’t put out their full roster and had just arrived in North America.
“We played them there but haven’t seen them since and they’ve added some really good players,” said captain Dillon Dube, who also scored against Switzerland. “It’s going to be a really fast game and we’re looking forward to the challenge.
“It’s going to be a hard game.”
Three of the tournament’s top-10 scorers are Czechs. Martin Necas (three goals, six assists), Libor Hajek (1G, 6A) and Filip Zadina (5G, 1A) have been very effective.
By comparison, Kyrou sits third with five goals and two assists, while Steel, Cale Makar and Brett Howden are all tied for 10th with three goals and three assists.
Howden added a goal and two assists for Canada, which won Group A with three wins and a shootout loss. Makar, Conor Timmins and Maxime Comtois also scored.
Canadian goalie Carter Hart stopped 12 shots for the win. He got his biggest cheers of the game in the first intermission after he one-upped Swiss goaltender Matteo Ritz.
Hart, who has a superstition about being the last player to leave the ice, saw that after 10 minutes of waiting Ritz wasn’t going anywhere during the first intermission. So the Canadian goaltender hid in the tunnel, then sprinted back out to the delight of the crowd after Ritz had gone to the Swiss locker-room.
“I was getting tired of waiting so I hopped off and then once I got off, he got off, so I quickly went back out, did a little loop, and came in,” said Hart. “The loop counts because I was still last off.”
Dario Rohrbach and Axel Simic replied for Switzerland, which finished fourth in Group B. Philip Wuthrich stopped 21-of-26 shots in 27:24 of work before being replaced by Ritz. He turned aside 31-of-34 shots.
Defenceman Victor Mete didn’t dress for the game and head coach Dominique Ducharme said he was day-to-day but expected the Montreal Canadiens prospect would be ready for Thursday’s semifinal. Mete also sat out practice Monday and Ducharme says he suffered a lower-body injury in Canada’s 4-3 shootout loss to the United States on Friday. He saw limited action against Denmark on Saturday.
Ticket sales have been an issue throughout the tournament, with attendance for all of Canada’s games at KeyBank Center well below capacity. A massive snowstorm insured that Tuesday’s game was no different, with entire sections in the upper bowl empty and some sections in the lower bowl less than 90 per cent full.
Announced attendance was 5,533, the lowest of the four games the Canadians have played at the home of the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres. Canada’s average attendance for the tournament is 15,236, but that’s buoyed by the 44,592 that attended its 4-3 shootout loss to the United States at New Era Field, the home of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills, in the first-ever outdoor game in tournament history.