A generous schedule helped Canada both find its playing legs and win three to start the World Junior Hockey Championships directly in Edmonton.
Time is running out for the host country to develop chemistry and hypnotize its systems.
Canada face Finland on Thursday in a 3-0 team meeting in Pool A.
The top seed in their pool and a favorable quarter-final matchup are at risk. A deep pool of frustration will lead to a tough quarter-final from B
The top four teams in each pool advanced to the quarterfinals on Saturday. There are Tuesday’s medal games after Monday’s semifinals.
“The game against Finland will get better and the rest of the tournament will be like what the rest of the tournament will be like,” Canada defender Cain Guhle said on Wednesday.
“It will definitely be a good test for us.”
Arguably between the two pools facilitated, Canada faced lower level countries to open the tournament.
The defending champions beat Switzerland 10-0 and short-lived Germany 16-2, and Slovakia did not test much defensively until the third round to win 3-1.
The hosts outsourced their opposition 29-3 and made it 119-48 together.
“The last two games were the ones we really took to them and the other teams are just sitting back and defending,” said Canadian forward Cole Perfetti.
“To be ready for us to play a team like Finland, to hold the defensive side of the game, we didn’t have to play the last two matches, that’s going to be good for us.”
Wednesday was a holiday in Canada and Finland beat Slovakia 0-0.
The Finns are up for a New Year’s Eve matchup against Canada, although there is a 15-2 goal difference over the three games.
“Of course it’s going to be a tough game for us,” said Finnish head coach Aunty Pennen. “They have a lot of good players and they are also a coach trained team.
“It’s going to be a big challenge, but I think we’ll be ready for it.”
Most Canadian players did not participate in meaningful games until a few months before coming to Edmonton because the COVID-19 epidemic closed their leagues in March.
Exhibition games against university teams were canceled after a pair of players tested positive, and the entire team spent 14 days of quarantine through the Canadian selection camp.
Games as a team were short, Canada had the luxury of entering the tournament against a weaker opponent.
“We’re just improving in every single game,” said Dylan Cogens, Canada’s co-captain and scoring leader, one step closer to taking each game to the top of our game.
“It’s great to have Finland as our last round robin game here. They want to take first place. We also want to take the first place. This is going to be a war. “
Guhle thinks Canada has made a name for itself since its 1-0 pre-tournament win over Russia.
“Our predictions are very hard to play,” the defender said. “I think we are very resilient and very relentless.
“I think we’re just a big, fast team, which makes it tough to play against another team.”