The opening of the 2016 World Junior Championship saw all three Flames prospects present in action. First, it was Adam Ollas-Mattsson and Team Sweden facing off against Team Switzerland in what turned out to be an overly violent affair; then, it was Mason McDonald starting for Team Canada and Brandon Hickey skating on defence as they prepared to face the Americans much earlier than we’re used to.
Sweden 8-3 Switzerland
While it was an eventful game for the Swedes, it was not for Adam Ollas-Mattsson. This makes sense, though: in Sweden’s 8-3 win over the Swiss, they spent a considerable amount of time on the power play, an area Ollas-Mattsson is not relied on.
That said, even though Ollas-Mattsson is not an offensive player, he did pick up a goal in the chaotic affair – albeit in garbage time.
It was an unnecessarily violent game, as the Swiss, who are not exactly on Sweden’s level, made up for it by playing rather dirty, including knocking both William Nylander and Adrian Kempe out of the game. Ollas-Mattsson wasn’t on the ice for any of these big hits or scrums throughout the game, so his play was kept completely clean.
On the one hand, it’s a bit of a shame – Ollas-Mattsson absolutely dwarfs some of his teammates, he’s huge and would probably be great to have in a scrum – but on the other hand, considering the level of stupid present throughout the game (although mostly on the Swiss’ part), perhaps it’s better he wasn’t involved.
With the Swedes building such a big lead and getting so many chances to practice their power play throughout the game, Ollas-Mattsson got a little bit of power play time at the end. Normally, though, he was used in a defensive role, defending in his own zone and playing on the penalty kill.
Ollas-Mattsson frequently used his big frame to stall any potential Swiss opportunities in his end, often keeping them pinned to the boards and not allowing them to get anything actually set up.
As for his goal, it was a simple affair within the game’s final five minutes. With Sweden already up 7-3, he rushed the puck up the ice along the boards, and his centring attempt simply went in off a Swiss’ player’s stick: hence, goal.
Perhaps we’ll get the chance to see more of Ollas-Mattsson in a less penalty-filled game; in the meantime, against the Swiss, he didn’t factor in much, but it’s never a bad thing to see your guys get in on the scoring. Oh – and not be on the ice for any goals against, either. As a defenceman, that’s always good.
The Swedes will be back in action bright and early at 7 a.m. on Dec. 28 when they take on the Americans, who will be a step up in competition.
USA 4-2 Canada
While Canada lost to the Americans 4-2, the score paints a bit of a worse picture than it actually was. Well, kind of. Because while things started off well, they completely fell apart towards the end.
Mason McDonald gave up four goals on 25 shots for a not-stellar .840 save percentage. Only one of the goals against was really bad for the netminder, but unfortunately, it was the backbreaking fourth goal, which came just 41 seconds after the Americans took the lead in the game’s final minutes. The puck trickled through McDonald’s fivehole, and Auston Matthews beat him to it to give USA the insurance goal at the game’s end.
As for the first three goals against the Flames prospect:
- McDonald was playing a shot that went wide, and was not in position to stop Colin White’s goal. The wide shot ended up bouncing out to White, and a quick stick on his part had the puck in the back of the net. McDonald couldn’t move over quickly enough, and his defence – Haydn Fleury, in this case – couldn’t prevent White from getting the shot off.
- On the power play, McDonald was screened. His penalty killers were unable to clear the puck, and Zach Werenski’s point shot went through.
- McDonald had the save on the third goal, at least before his defenceman Joe Hicketts tipped the puck over his glove and in.
At the same time, though, the Americans weren’t getting many chances to start the game. When they started piling it on, Team Canada, and McDonald, couldn’t seem to keep up. His American counterpart, Alex Nedeljkovic, outplayed him handily, stopping 25 of 27 shots he faced.
As for Brandon Hickey: he was on the ice for Canada’s first goal, as well as three of the four American goals scored. He did not play on the power play, but he isn’t on Team Canada for offence; he’s there to play a shutdown role, and as such, spent ample time on the penalty kill.
While Hickey did have some good moments – disrupting Matthews early on, for instance – he was partially at fault for failing to clear the puck on the power play that resulted in the Americans’ second goal. And when things fell apart in the third, Hickey’s good game went with it.
It’s just not a good sign in general when you’re out there for defensive purposes and yet are on the ice for the majority of goals against, even if they weren’t necessarily your fault.
Canada has a chance to get back in the win column when they take on Team Denmark at 11 a.m. on Dec. 28. While Hickey should undoubtedly be back in, McDonald’s backup, Sam Montembeault, could get the start, as Mackenzie Blackwood will be serving the final game of his suspension.