Welsh backstops Canada to 8-2 win over Japan to stay perfect in men’s hockey

OTTAWA, ONT – Team Canada’s fast start and dominance on both sides of the puck from start to finish helped them defeat Japan 8-2 to improve to a perfect 3-0-0 record at the FISU Winter World University Games. 

Japan came out quickly and forechecked well, but Canada’s strong defence withstood Japan’s hot start and controlled the game the rest of the way. 

Canadian forwards Adam McCormick and Jonathan Yantsis gave a lot of credit to Japan for starting the game well and added what Canada needed to stop it.

“They were strong right from the get-go, give them credit, their forecheck was there, [they have] lots of speed, lots of skill,” McCormick said. “We knew that from the pre-scout coming in, and we knew we needed to come out strong [to counter it], and we did.”

“They’re a fast hockey team; they come out flying, so the first five minutes were key for us. They’re a tough team and are really skilled. Competing with them was a good test for [us] and to build from here is the key,” Yantsis added.

Canada outshot Japan 50-20 and dominated in the faceoff circle which led to sustained possession in the offensive zone and several high-quality scoring chances thanks to great puck movement. 

Canada’s key to  success has been getting a ton of production from all four of their lines, something they have done in each game at the tournament. 

Keating (2G 1A), Yantsis (G 2A), and Brady Gilmour (1G, 2A) all recorded three points in the victory. All three players were key reasons Canada had so much success moving the puck and creating scoring chances in the offensive zone with their speed, high hockey IQ, excellent passing, and creativity. 

“It was mainly the team, we got a bunch of great players from all over the country, the best in the country, and it’s really easy when you’re playing with them,” Yantsis said.

McCormick, Brett Davis, Zachary Lavigne, and Kyle Bollers also got on the scoresheet in an offensive explosion for team Canada. Canada has the second-most goals at the tournament (24) and the second-highest goal difference (+19), only behind the United States, who’ve scored 26 goals and conceded none through two games. The U.S. also defeated Team GB 18-0.

Keating got Canada on the board just over seven minutes in and then doubled his team’s lead eight minutes later after he calmly controlled a nice pass from Matthew Struthers before tucking it past Japan’s goaltender Toshiki Nakamura.

McCormick was proud of his team’s strong start, especially its ability to defend against Japan’s speed and offensive talent and their ability to create scoring chances in the attacking zone.

“Our first period was dominant. … We had lots of shots, and our defensive game [was good] as well,” McCormick said. His line was productive and combined for four goals and eight points.

Canada added two more goals before the end of the first period – merely 21 seconds apart – to take a 4-0 lead into the second period. 

McCormick’s goal to give Canada a 3-0 lead resulted from a passing play where Keating found him open in the slot. He made no mistake, juking around the goalie before tapping it home. McCormick credits his teammates’ playmaking skills for his goal.

Canada’s offensive momentum continued early into the second period after Lavigne scored an unassisted goal directly off the counter-attack after a Japan odd-man rush. 

Just over four minutes into the second period, Tyler Hylland slotted a nice cross-ice pass to Gilmour who fired a one-timer into the back of the net to extend Canada’s lead to 6-0. 

Up by six, Canada’s offence didn’t take their foot off the gas and completely dominated the rest of the second period by winning faceoffs to help control possession, moving the puck very well to create open shooting lanes and scoring chances, strong forecheck to limit Japan’s attack and by outshooting Japan 22-5 in the final 15 minutes of the second period.

Yantsis credits Canada’s continued offensive success to the strong chemistry they’ve developed with each other as a unit.

“I think we’re a close group; it helps when we’re all friends out there. We’re getting to know each other, hanging out every day, and just growing closer and closer to each other,” Yantsis said.

Canada started the third period just as well as they did the second, and Bollers extended Canada’s lead to 7-0 with a nice finish after the slick cross-ice pass from Gilmour. 

Japan scored two goals 12 minutes apart and began generating consistent momentum in the offensive zone and creating quality scoring chances. 

However, it was too late, and Canada would add another goal, courtesy of Yantsis’ well-timed, powerful one-time shot from the slot.

Yantsis said it was a “relief to see the puck go in” because a few of his teammates were on his back about other teammates scoring before he did. 

Canadian goaltender Matthew Welsh stopped 18 of the 20 shots he faced and made a handful of huge saves early in the first period to keep Japan off the scoresheet and midway through the third period when Japan’s offence was temporarily revitalized. 

Canada has two games left in round-robin play, against number two-ranked Czechia and then against Latvia. After that, they will look to finish 5-0-0 in group stage and advance to the semifinal and final games in Lake Placid.

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