Connor Bedard had four assists to tie Eric Lindros for Canada’s all-time points record at the world junior hockey championship as the tournament hosts wrapped up preliminary round play with a dominant 5-1 victory over Sweden on Saturday night in Halifax.
Brennan Othmann, with two, Joshua Roy, Tyson Hinds and Kevin Korchinski scored for the Canadians. Thomas Milic made 22 saves. Ludvig Jansson replied for Sweden, which got 39 stops from Carl Lindbom.
Canada, which wore its black jerseys on New Year’s Eve, will face Slovakia in Monday’s quarterfinals at the men’s under-20 event, while Sweden is set to take on Finland. United States will face Germany and Czechia will play Switzerland in the other matchups.
The presumptive first pick at the 2023 NHL draft, Bedard has played just 13 total games at the world juniors, while Lindros registered his 31 points in 21 contests over three tournaments.
The 17-year-old from North Vancouver, who wasn’t shy about throwing his weight around against Sweden, leads this showcase with 18 points in four games, while his 14 career goals are tied with Jordan Eberle for Canada’s all-time national record at the world juniors.
The first New Year’s Eve game at the world juniors since the 2020 tournament, and Canada’s first Dec. 31 victory on home soil in eight years, saw the host country shot out of a cannon in front of an electric and well-lubricated crowd inside a sold-out Scotiabank Centre.
Roy took a pass from Bedard and roofed his third goal of the tournament just 57 seconds into the first period before the Swedes took a penalty to send the Canadians and their lethal power play — which entered the game 11-for-16 — to work.
It didn’t take long to strike as Bedard glided over the blue line and fed Shane Wright, who in turn found Othmann for his first at 2:08.
Canada went up 3-0 at 11:45 when Bedard and Logan Stankoven set up Tyson Hinds for his second.
Canadian forward Zack Ostpachuk was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct for kneeing moments later, opening the door for Sweden — which had absolutely nothing going on — to get on the board when Jansson scored his first at 16:21.
Milic made a terrific desperation left-pad save on Jonathan Lekkerimaki with five minutes left in the second before the goaltender and Canada’s penalty killers survived a Swedish two-man advantage for 53 seconds.
Othmann then put things out of reach 35 seconds into the third when he scored his second of the night off a pass from Dylan Guenther.
Bedard then passed to Korchinski at 12:42 for the defenceman’s first — and the star centre for the Western Hockey League’s Regina Pats’ record-tying assist to send the Canadians to the quarters with by far their best performance of these world juniors.
The countries played for the first time since the 2018 gold-medal game, which Canada won 3-1 in Buffalo, N.Y.
Canada improved to 9-1 on home soil, while Sweden’s last victory over the North American powerhouse came in the preliminary round of the 2015 tournament in Finland.
UNDRAFTED MILIC SHINES
The Canadian goaltender is the only player on his team’s roster passed over at the NHL draft.
“One of the bigger shocks for me,” Bedard said of the 19-year-old from Coquitlam, B.C. “We’re hopeful for him to get drafted.”
Milic was 11-2-1 with a .919 save percentage and a 2.35 goals-against average with the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds this season before joining up with the national team.
“He’s been unreal,” Bedard added. “Really good goalie.”
CARLSSON, BEDARD RESPECT
Bedard is, as it stands, the slam-dunk top pick in 2023, while Swedish forward Leo Carlsson is in a group of players along with Canadian forward Adam Fantilli expected to be vying for the No. 2 slot.
“Special player,” Bedard said of Carlsson. “Some unreal hockey IQ.”
“Really good offensive skills,” Carlsson countered. “Biggest game I’ve played.”
LINDBOM LOVES CROWDS
The Swedish netminder said before Saturday’s game he looks forward to tough playing environments like the one inside Scotiabank Centre on New Year’s Eve.
“I love the big crowd,” said the Vegas Golden Knights draft pick. “I love the crowd booing you, going against you. I love it.”
“Fires me up.”
Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press