Kent Johnson and Eric O’Dell had a goal and an assist each as Canada beat China 5-0 in men’s hockey on Sunday at the Beijing Olympics.
Ben Street, Adam Tambellini and Corban Knight also scored for the Canadians (2-1), who got 26 saves from Matt Tomkins. Tyler Wotherspoon and Josh Ho-Sang both added two assists.
Paris O’Brien stopped 39 shots for China, which is taking part of the tournament for the first time. The hosts were outscored a combined 16-2 through three round-robin games, but did keep things close in Saturday’s 3-2 loss to Germany.
And while Canada’s roster of non-NHLers had a significant territorial advantage in a game that was never really in doubt, the hosts didn’t have to deal with the likes of Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar after the league withdrew from the Games because of COVID-19 concerns.
The Canadians, who beat Germany 5-1 on Thursday before losing to the United States 4-2 on Saturday, finished second in Group A.
“We played pretty well [against the U.S.], we didn’t really score on our chances and we hit a couple of posts. Tonight we played an all-around good game,” said O’Dell. “I think we need to build off that and just look through to the next game, where I hear that we will play them again. We need to play the same way then.”
Despite the victory Sunday night, Canada will now play in the tournament’s qualification round as the No. 5 seed in a rematch against China on Tuesday for a spot in the quarter-finals after Finland beat Sweden 4-3 in overtime and the U.S. downed Germany 3-2.
“At the end of the day, whatever happens, you’ve got to look at it in a positive way,” said Canada head coach Claude Julien.
“Playing in a qualification round gives us the opportunity to play another game and to improve as a team. You’ve got to remember that we had no pre-tournament games. This is basically our third game and the more you play the better you get as a team, so hopefully this plays to our advantage.”
The U.S., Russian Olympic Committee and Finland automatically advanced to the quarters as group winners, while Sweden also moved on with the best record among the eight remaining countries.
“About all we could accomplish up to this point, we’ve done it,” U.S. head coach David Quinn said. “There’s a swagger to us, and there’s a believability that’s gone here over the last week and it’s put us in this position, but we haven’t really accomplished anything that we want to accomplish.”
Canada-infused China squad
Of the 25 players representing China at the Beijing Games, 18 were born or grew up in North America, including 11 with strong ties to Canada, while one is Russian. The team is made up of the roster from state-owned Kunlun Red Star of the Russian-based KHL, a franchise created to boost the country’s shallow pool of hockey talent ahead of the Olympics.
Vancouver native and former NHLer Brandon Yip, who had three grandparents born in China and is known as Jinguang Ye at the Olympics, is the captain.
But other players, including American defenceman Jake Chelios, son of Hall of Famer Chris Chelios, and Canadian forward Ethan Werek, had no ties to the country before signing with Kunlun.
The International Ice Hockey Federation, which contemplated replacing China with Norway at the Olympics, ruled players in that category met residency requirements despite the fact Kunlun was forced to relocate to the Moscow area the last two seasons because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tomkins, an Edmonton native playing in Sweden’s top league, started for Canada in the second of a back-to-back after Edward Pasquale got the nod against Germany and the U.S.
Devon Levi, who was named MVP of the 2021 world junior hockey championship and has put up incredible numbers in the NCAA this season, dressed for the first time in Beijing as the backup.
O’Brien, a Coquitlam, B.C., product with a 1-6-0 record in the KHL this season, got the start in place of American-born netminder Jeremy Smith for China, which took the ice to tepid applause from a few hundred fans at Beijing’s National Indoor Stadium
Canada went up 1-0 just over two minutes into the first when Street banged a loose puck home after Johnson took the puck hard to the net.
Tambellini doubled the lead on a breakaway, and O’Dell made it 3-0 midway through the period off a sweet feed from Ho-Sang.
Demoted from the top line with Eric Staal and Mason McTavish to the 13th forward, Ho-Sang was pressed into action after Jordan Weal suffered a cut to his right ear that needed repairs in the locker room after getting hit into the boards.
There was a strange moment at the start of the second when O’Brien skated to the wrong crease, scraped up the ice and then realized it wasn’t his net. A confused Tomkins arrived on the scene and asked one of the officials for an explanation.
The Chinese came close to getting on the board on a power play once the action resumed, but hit two posts, including on a Parker Foo deflection.
Canada wasn’t all that crisp in its execution, but Johnson made it 4-0 with 1:57 left in the period when he came off the bench and took a pass from Jason Demers before firing a quick shot past O’Brien.
Knight made it 5-0 in the third period, tipping Owen Power’s shot through the Canadian-born netminder on a power play.
The assist was the first point of the Olympics for the 19-year-old Power, who was selected first overall by the Buffalo Sabres at the 2021 NHL draft.