Canada eases past China
by Andy Potts|13 FEB 2022
Canada's Eric O'Dell #19 celebrates with Kent Johnson #13 after scoring a goal on China.
photo: Matt Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images
Canada closed out its Group A program with a convincing 5-0 victory over China. Three goals in the first 10 minutes put this game to bed and despite a spirited performance from the Dragons once again, the host nation never looked capable of getting back into contention.

This result, coupled with team USA’s victory over Germany, confirms that the Canadians will be the top-ranked team in Tuesday’s qualification round action. And that means an immediate rematch with 12th seed China.

Kent Johnson, who had a goal and an assist in the game, was happy with Canada's day at the office. "I thought we played pretty well," he said. "We just wanted to play a 60-minute game. We were good for parts of the other two but playing a full 60 was really the main goal for today."

The host nation started with 21-year-old goalie Yongli Ouban (Paris O’Brien), giving Shimisi Jieruimi (Jeremy Smith) a well-earned break. The youngster got a good-luck message before the game from Bob Hartley, who called upon him as an emergency goalie for a team Latvia camp back in January 2018. But that taste of international hockey was nothing compared with an Olympic debut against Canada for a kid who grew up in Coquitlam, BC.

"Honestly, it was a surreal moment," he said. "My five-year-old self wouldn’t believe where I am today. Canada are a hell of a team, very well coached, a good group of guys, and it’s going to be a tough game again but we’re up for the challenge."

Canada also iced a debutant goalie with Matt Tomkins getting the nod ahead of Eddie Pasquale. Claude Julien was behind the Canadian bench for the first time in Beijing after his rapid recovery from injury.

After getting a close-up view of his team, Julien felt that there was progress from the earlier group games: "What I saw tonight is we didn’t have a 20-minute lapse that we saw in the first two games. Today we were balanced, closer to a 60-minute game. You can be happy with things but you can never be satisfied."

The Canadians, eager to bounce back after Saturday’s loss to Team USA, made a fast start. It took little over two minutes to break the deadlock, with Kent Johnson bearing down on the net and sending the puck skidding across the paintwork. From amid a crowd of players, Ben Street’s stick emerged to steer the rubber past Ouban.

Canada then killed a penalty and quickly doubled its lead when Alex Grant’s defence-splitting pass sent Adam Tambellini away to go five-hole on the young Chinese goalie. Then, midway through the frame, Josh Ho-Sang sped through centre ice and set up Eric O’Dell for a goal to add to his earlier assist. Ho-Sang is another player with Chinese heritage, but the Toronto native is lining up for the country of his birth here in his grandmother’s homeland.

O'Dell was happy with his two-point contribution, but more importantly with the team's performance. "I think we had a pretty good game," he said. "All our lines were playing well. We’ve just gotta build off that, I think we play them again, so we’ve gotta play the same way. They’ve got some good players and we can’t take them lightly. I think we’ve just gotta go period by period."

That three-goal cushion made life comfortable for Canada. But China had a point to prove against one of the giants of the game and worked hard to show its worth here. When Taile Wang (Tyler Wong) emerged from the penalty box he got a chance to break and produced an extravagant dangle to try to conjure something against Owen Power, threatening to outwit one of the brightest prospects in world hockey. That came to naught, but ushered in a spell of pressure until the end of the first period.

Thus lifted, the Dragons made a bright start to the middle frame. Shuai Fu (Parker Foo), who scored China’s first Olympic goal yesterday, tipped a Ruian Sipulaoer (Ryan Sproul) shot against the post. Another penalty kill slowed the Chinese momentum, but back at equal strength Fu hit the piping again.

Now we were seeing something of a contest, with China belying its ranking of 32 in the world and putting Canada under pressure. Ye Jinguang (Brandon Yip) created a good chance for Zheng Enlai (Ty Schultz), Wei Ruike (Ethan Werek) went round the back to set up Jian An (Cory Kane) for another shot that was beaten away, and Tomkins heard his post come into play once again as a point shot clipped the outside of the frame.

All of that gave China's captain Ye (Yip) reasons for encouragement ahead of Tuesday's rematch. "I think we hit two posts there on the power play and were buzzing around there, so that will give us some confidence going forward," he said. "I think we showed we can compete, but we need to bury a couple of our chances there and figure out a way not to get down so early because that’s such a hard team to come back against."

And Julien acknowledged positives from China's game. "We played a team that seems to be getting better all the time," he said. "We played a team that doesn’t quit, competes hard and had their chances."

After China failed to take its chances, late in the session Canada showed how it's done. Jordan Weal, back on the ice after taking a cut to the ear in the first period, got an assist as Johnson, promoted from World Juniors to Olympics last month, fired a shot in off the far post.

And there was a similar story in the third period with China beginning in lively fashion but failing to score. Then Canada got a power play chance and took advantage. Corban Knight was given far too much space in front of the net to redirect Power’s point shot beyond Ouban and make it 5-0.

For the neutral, a Chinese goal would have been the perfect garnish to the game. However, Tomkins had other ideas. The 27-year-old, currently with SHL outfit Frolunda, secured a shut-out on his international debut, stopping 26 shots as Canada closed out a comfortable victory. At the other end, Ouban faced 44 attempts in a busy introduction to the Games.
China vs Canada - 2022 Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Tournament