Boxing Day marks the start of the annual World Juniors tournament. With the 2022 tournament once again taking place at home in Canada, there is bound to be a ton of pressure and eyes on the tournament as usual. After a shocking defeat in the gold medal game last year, Canada will be looking to rebound and claim gold once again with a much younger roster.
After having four prospects at last years tournament, the Calgary Flames will see just one suit up this time around as 2021 first-round pick Matthew Coronato dons the American sweater. Yan Kuznetsov should’ve been suiting up for his second straight tournament but Russia decided to skip rostering any North American based player.
On the opening day of the tournament, fans were treated to Coronato’s first game of the tournament as the USA took on Slovakia, to go along with Canada’s opener against Czechia. Here’s how those games went down.
Here’s how Canada lined up for their first game of the tournament:
Coming into the game as heavy favourites, Canada was given a pretty big wake up call in the first period. Canada looked to be in full control after dominating early on and getting out to a one goal lead four minutes in via a beauty of a goal by 2021 third overall pick Mason McTavish in a goal you have to see twice.
However soon after the Czech’s silenced the crowd in a big way as they scored three straight unanswered goals to jump out to a shocking 3–1 lead early on. The three goal storm was highlighted by a beautiful goal by Columbus Blue Jackets 2021 third-round pick Stanislav Svozil.
Canada would then get one right back with a goal by 2021 first overall pick Owen Power to make it four goals in 5:04 minutes. Canada would score one more goal with 30 seconds left in the period to make it an even game going into the second period.
After a back and forth first period, Czechia would get into some big penalty trouble early in the second that would essentially ruin any chances of an upset. The Czechs would take three penalties in a 1:08 minute span leading to two five on three goals for Canada.
After taking the lead 5–3 Canada wouldn’t look back as they would dominate the rest of the game en route to a 6–3 win while outshooting Czechia 36–17. Power would lead the way with the first hat trick by a Canadian defenceman in World Juniors history.
Canada is back in action on Tuesday night as they take on Austria at 5:00PM MST.
Coronato would start the game for the Americans on the team’s top line alongside 2021 second overall pick Matthew Beniers and 2020 fifth-round pick Brett Berard. Not only was he penciled in on the top line but Coronato also logged time on the team’s top power play and surprisingly the top penalty kill unit, showcasing his impressive versatility.
Team USA would get into some penalty trouble early on taking two minors in the first five minutes of the game, however they would get through both penalty kills without giving up a goal with the help of Coronato.
The Americans wouldn’t get much going offensively until two straight minors by the Slovaks gave them their first chance on the power play. When they eventually did get their offense going Coronato was right in the middle of it.
Coronato took a pass for a great look in the slot on the power play but bobbled the puck and wasn’t able to get a solid shot off. However later on the power play he would make a nice heads up cross-ice pass to Matthew Samoskevich to setup the team’s second goal of the game with 4:42 left in the first period.
As mentioned Coronato was a surprise addition to the Americans top penalty kill unit, but he certainly held his own. On one play he made a good read to pick off a pass and clear the puck at the blueline. On a separate play he anticipated a clear coming around the boards and headed up ice which nearly earned him a shorthanded breakaway as the puck was just out of reach.
Offensively what stood out the most to me was his playmaking and anticipation. He’s obviously known for his goal scoring, but in this one he seemed to play more of a playmaker role on his line. He made a nice quick pass in tight on a tic tac toe in the second that led to a great chance for Berard. On another play he held onto the puck, cut into the middle to draw the defender away and set up his teammate for an open shot.
Another aspect of Coronato’s game that was clearly evident was his speed and energy. He plays with a ton of speed. He seemed to zip up and down the ice on every shift and because of this was in the middle of most plays at both ends. His game was certainly reminiscent of a certain sixth-round pick playing for the Flames right now in that he was just constantly buzzing around the ice and in the middle of everything.
A perfect example of this was late in the third period as he snuck into the slot and found himself wide open in front setting up a great chance on net. After the rebound bounced into the corner he chased down the puck won the puck battle and got the puck to the point to set up another scoring chance for his team.
His best scoring chance of the game came on a play in which he chipped the puck through centre ice causing two Slovakian defenders colliding, leaving him in all alone. Unfortunately his Harvard teammate and Slovak goalie Simon Latkoczy made a great blocker save to deny him, but both of his scoring chances showcased his relentless pursuit of the puck and his ability to never give up on a play.
A good opening day
Overall it was a solid showing for Coronato in his first World Junior game as he set up a goal and helped the Americans win a tight game 3–2. He showcased his versatility and underrated two-way game by playing a key role in all situations as he led all American forwards in ice time with 17:47 minutes. He’ll be back in action on December 28th when USA takes on Switzerland at 2:30PM MST.