Canada’s Alexis Lafreniere, left, Dylan Cozens, centre, and Joe Veleno, right, celebrate after defeating Slovakia 6-1 at the World Junior Hockey Championships on Thursday, January 2, 2020 in Ostrava, Czech Republic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Lafreniere, Canada thump Slovakia 6-1 to advance to semifinals at world juniors

Captain Hayton has pair of goals for Canadians

OSTRAVA, Czech Republic — Canada’s quest for gold remains on track at the world junior hockey championship.

Alexis Lafreniere scored and added an assist in his return from injury as part of a resounding 6-1 victory over Slovakia in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

Barrett Hayton added two goals and an assist for the Canadians, Connor McMichael, Jacob Bernard-Docker and Liam Foudy also scored, and Joel Hofer picked up his third straight win. Dylan Cozens, Jamie Drysdale and Calen Addison each added two assists.

Oliver Okuliar replied for the overmatched Slovaks. Samuel Hlavaj took the loss in goal.

Lafreniere was back in the lineup after missing the last two games with a knee injury suffered in a humiliating 6-0 setback to Russia last Saturday, Canada’s worst defeat in the under-20 tournament’s 44-year history.

It was originally believed the Canadians would automatically get a rematch with the Russians, who beat Switzerland 3-1 earlier Thursday, in the semifinals. But they instead had to wait until later Thursday to find out their next opponent after the International Ice Hockey Federation recently changed its medal-round format — and neglected to update the official website — to a setup that sees teams reseeded after the quarters based on rankings at the event.

Lafreniere took up his usual spot on Canada’s top line with Hayton and Nolan Foote only to see the latter assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for a check to the head on Slovakia’s Kristian Kovacik just 53 seconds into the first period at Ostravar Arena.

Sporting their black jerseys for a second straight game, the Canadians managed to kill off the penalty, with Hofer making a big save off the rush, and then grabbed a 1-0 lead at 6:47.

Cozens, who replaced Foote on the No. 1 trio, pressured the puck on the forecheck and Lafreniere passed quickly in front to Hayton, who beat Hlavaj for his team-leading fourth goal of the world juniors.

Lafreniere’s return to action looked to be in serious doubt a week ago as the projected No. 1 pick at the 2020 NHL draft and reigning CHL Player of the Year lay in agony on the ice after twisting his left leg on an awkward fall against Russia.

He had to be helped off by teammates, but the 18-year-old from Saint-Eustache, Que., who has 70 points in 32 games with the Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League this season, watched practice less than 24 hours later minus a knee brace or noticeable limp.

He took part in Canada’s skate Wednesday before the official all-clear was announced a few hours later.

READ MORE: Team Canada powers way to 7-2 win over Czech Republic

Hlavaj — statistically the QMJHL’s best goalie in 2019-20 with the league-leading Sherbrooke Phoenix — did his best to keep the Slovaks in it, but Canada scored four times in the middle period to put things out of reach.

McMichael bagged his second at 1:21 on a 2-on-1, Bernard-Docker added his first after a nice toe-drag around a sliding defender at 3:42, and Foudy made a slick move on a breakaway at 9:02 for a 4-0 lead.

Canada, which suffered a devastating overtime defeat at this stage of the tournament to the Finns in Vancouver last year, then went to the power play, with Lafreniere taking a pass in the high slot and wiring his second of the tournament at 10:50.

The 17-time gold medallists added a sixth one minute into the third on another man advantage when Hayton buried his fifth.

That spelled the end of the afternoon for Hlavaj, who was replaced by Samuel Vyletelka.

Okuliar, who plays on the same line as Cozens with the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes, broke the shutout bid at 6:10 when he blasted a shot past Hofer.

Without a point in the tournament, 17-year-old Quinton Byfield, who’s expected to go high at June’s draft, hit the post midway through the third.

Canada finished atop Group B with a 3-1 record, while Slovakia’s only victory in Group A was a 3-1 triumph over Kazakhstan.

The Slovaks lost their other three round-robin games by a combined 21-5 scoreline — 8-1 to Finland, 7-2 to Switzerland and 6-2 to Sweden.

Canada hasn’t won the tournament in Europe since 2008, when the Czech Republic last hosted.

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter 

IIHF world junior hockey

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Popular retired UFV therapy dog passes away

Mac the Therapy Dog consoled countless students and staff, as well as wildfire victims

Imagination Library Fraser Valley celebrating Christmas in July

Dolly Parton early literacy intiative looking for financial support to help with waitlist

Exercise and cancer to be explored via webinar

UFV’s Dr. Iris Lesser to lead Zoom event for cancer patients and supporters

Vancouver double homicide leads to arrest in Harrison Hot Springs Wednesday

VPD and RCMP tracked dumped vehicle connected to killings to Chilliwack

Multiple accidents slowing westbound Highway 1 traffic

3 accidents in Langley, Abbotsford within 30 minutes

B.C. sees 25 new COVID-19 cases, community exposure tracked

One death, outbreaks remain in two long-term care facilities

Man shot dead in east Abbotsford suburbs

Integrated Homicide Investigative Team called to investigate

RCMP ‘disappointed’ by talk that race a factor in quiet Rideau Hall arrest

Corey Hurren, who is from Manitoba, is facing 22 charges

NHL’s Canadian hubs offer little economic benefit, but morale boost is valuable: experts

Games are slated to start Aug. 1 with six Canadian teams qualifying for the 24-team resumption of play

‘Made in the Cowichan Valley’ coming to a wine bottle near you

Cowichan Valley has the honour of being the first sub-GI outside of the Okanagan

VIDEO: Vancouver Island cat missing 18 months reunited with family

Blue the cat found at Victoria museum 17 kilometres from home

VIDEO: Alberta man rescues baby eagle believed to be drowning in East Kootenay lake

Brett Bacon was boating on a lake in Windermere when he spotted the baby eagle struggling in the water

Police nab three impaired drivers in one night in Maple Ridge

Ridge Meadows RCMP served 80 impaired driving infractions in June

Conservationists raise concerns over state of care for grizzly cubs transferred to B.C. zoo

‘Let them be assessed now before their fate is sealed,’ urges B.C. conservationist Barb Murray

Most Read