The sixth and final game between the Canadian Hockey League and the Russian national junior team was last night in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Team QMJHL beat the Russians 6-4, after initially building up a 4-0 lead early in the game and chasing the Russian goalie early-on.
Calgary Flames second round pick Mason McDonald was the QMJHL goalie. How’d he look? Well, he looked much like he did in Hockey Canada’s Summer Showcase: he was solid, but I wouldn’t say he stole the show.
McDonald was in net from bell-to-bell, playing the full 60 minutes against a Russian Selects team that was very similar to the group that he faced back in August. The QMJHL team got out to an early lead, really blitzing the Russians with quality chances. Part of that was due to strong puck support in defensive end, so McDonald didn’t see a ton of high-quality chances early in the game – most Russian chances were from beyond the face-off dots, so McDonald was able to snag those easily.
However, once Russia got down four goals they switched goalies and that seemed to galvanize their attackers. Oh, and the QMJHL defenders embraced score effects and basically ceased their strong defensive zone play. As a result, from the end of the first period onwards, McDonald faced a ton of traffic and tips. The Russians finally broke through and beat McDonald on a tip-in goal by Evgeni Svechnikov that just beat McDonald on the inside post to make it 4-1 at the end of the first period.
The Russians continued to claw back with lots of shots through traffic in the second, with goals by Svechnikov and Artur Lauda making it 4-3. However, going into the third period after nearly blowing their entire four-goal lead seemed to galvanize the QMJHL crew, and they came out and scored within the first five minutes to extend their lead to two and then they kept the Russians at bay for the remainder. The Russians added a late power-play goal through traffic, making the final score 6-4.
What did we learn about Mason McDonald? Well, we learned that he struggles when his defense hangs him out to dry, but he made some solid saves through traffic. He’s not great with tip-ins, but he tracks pucks well and with some defensive support could probably improve tracking tip-in shots as well. Overall he made 27 saves in the game and the goals he gave up were almost exclusively ones through traffic and/or with tips, which are always tough for netminders.
For reference, McDonald made 16 saves in Canada’s 4-1 win over the Russians in early August. His defenders on that night were Travis Dermott, Joe Hicketts, Travis Sanheim, Vince Dunn, Alexandre Carrier and Jeremy Roy. Last night, his defenders were Olivier Leblanc, Thomas Chabot, Philippe Myers, Jeremy Lauzon, Guillaume Brisebois and Samuel Girard. His August group was notably more stacked, so the difference in shots against and shot quality is probably as expected.
In summation: McDonald was what we thought he would be. He was solid, if unspectacular, and didn’t appreciably hurt his chances to represent Canada in a month at the World Juniors. But he also didn’t blow the doors off, so he’ll still need to perform well at the selection camp to cement his position on the team.