Friends became foes on Friday the 13th in Helsinki.
The Ottawa Senators held a special session overseas as Team Canada kicked off the preliminary round of the 2022 IIHF world championship Friday with a 5-3 victory over Team Germany at the Helsinki Ice Hall Friday night.
There was no shortage of anticipation amongst Senators’ fans as top defenceman Thomas Chabot, named the Canadian captain, along with his teammates Drake Batherson and Nick Holden took on winger Tim Stuetzle and his Germany teammates to kick off the tourney
And, if there wasn’t enough Ottawa flavour already, just for good measure head coach D.J. Smith is an assistant on Claude Julien’s staff along with Arizona Coyotes’ bench boss Andre Tourigny.
Smith celebrated his 45th birthday Friday and there couldn’t have been a better way than with a win. Canada is the defending champions of the tournament so this was a good way to get off on the right foot.
Though Chabot, Holden and Batherson have faced Stuetzle a lot in practice, this is the first time they’ve seen each other in a competition. You can be sure there were a lot of good-natured barbs being traded by the opponents before the puck was dropped.
“It was big. Overall, I thought we played a very good game. It’s the first game of the tournament and this was a chance for everyone to play together,” Chabot told TSN’s Lindsay Hamilton after the game. “I thought we did a pretty good job.”
Wearing the ‘C’ for the first time meant a lot to Chabot. He played 22:22, registered an assist and was plus-1.
“It’s a huge honour to have the chance to wear the jersey and to get (the ‘C’) is a plus,” he said. “It’s something that’s not only special for me, but for my family as well. At the end of the day, it’s a short tournament, we’re all trying to get to know each other and our goal is to win.
“Whatever I can do to help this team I’ll do it.”
Stuetzle recorded two helpers and won a Tissot watch for being the player-of-the-game for his country but he would have rather left with the win. He played 19:44 and had only one shot on net, but he used his speed to make some big plays.
“It’s a lot of fun and it’s always fun playing against some of the best players in the world,” Stuetzle told TSN. “They have so many really good players. We really enjoyed but tomorrow is the next game and we’ve got to get focused again.”
This was a tough day for Stuetzle in some ways.
He was given a high sticking penalty at 11:53 of the second for high sticking Canadian forward Adam Lowry. Upset at having his jersey held by Lowry, Stuetzle lifted his stick in the air and ended up catching the Winnipeg Jet in the helmet.
The officials reviewed the penalty but it still resulted in two minutes for Stuetzle and Canada took a 4-1 lead on the ensuing power play. Columbus prospect Kent Johnson scored the second power play goal of the night and Chabot picked up an assist.
Stuetzle also likely needed some dental work after this one. He took an accidental high stick early in the second from Plachta early in the second. The officials were ready to send Cole Sillinger to the box, but replays showed he clearly wasn’t responsible.
In the first period, Stuetzle also took a hit from Montreal winger Josh Anderson and, of course, given his history with Habs’ winger Brendan Gallagher, that raised a few eyebrows.
In the second period, Batherson helped restore a two-goal lead for Canada by throwing a perfect pass to Nicolas Roy in front that helped set up Winnipeg’s Pierre-Luc Dubois’ second of the game to give the club a 3-1 advantage at 11:37. That also came with the man-advantage.
“It’s huge, not only today, but throughout the whole tournament,” Dubois said. “You have a good power play and penalty kill at the end of the day that could help you win a gold or silver medal. It was big.”
Germany’s Marc Michaelis got his club on the board at 7:24 of the second.
The atmosphere in the stands sure sounded festive with lots of singing and chanting. As TSN colour analyst Mike Johnson noted to his play-by-play partner Gord Miller before the puck was dropped, many fans of Germany had just come into the rink “from the beer hall.”
It didn’t take long for the mood of the German fans to get dampened by the Canadians.
Team Canada pulled out to a 2-0 lead after the first period on the strength of goals by Dubois at 17:22 and Sillinger, a Columbus Blue Jackets centre, at 8:02. He’s the club’s youngest player at 18-years-old and was selected No. 12 overall in the 2021 NHL draft.
Canada outshot Germany 13-5 and it felt like goaltender Phillip Grubauer was under siege.
“Against a team like Canada, everything has to fall into place,” Grubauer said. “We can build on that third period. I felt overall we played a solid game, just a couple hiccups.”
For any early risers, Canada will face Italy in Game 2 of the tournament Sunday morning at 5 a.m. EDT.
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