Celebrini dazzles in romp over Latvia
by Lucas AYKROYD|27 DEC 2023
Canada's Macklin Celebrini (#17) gets congratulations from his teammates after scoring a second-period goal in a 10-0 win over Latvia at the 2024 World Juniors in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Canada hammered Latvia 10-0 for its second straight win on Wednesday at the 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship. Forward Macklin Celebrini, the prospective #1 overall pick in the 2024 NHL Draft, took over the tournament scoring lead with a goal and four assists.

"It was nice starting off the tournament 2-and-0," Celebrini told TSN. "It was the start we needed and the start we wanted."

Conor Geekie and Carson Rehkopf chipped in two goals apiece for the two-time defending champions.

It’s been an auspicious start for coach Alain Letang’s troops. The Canadians – who dumped Finland 5-2 in their opener – have yet to trail in Gothenburg. They’re chasing an all-time record 21st World Junior gold medal.

Canada outshot Latvia 41-22 as starting goalie Mathis Rousseau recorded his first World Junior shutout.

The average temperature in Gothenburg in December is 2 Celsius, but Latvia is already feeling the heat. Not only has coach Artis Abols’ squad dropped its first two games by an aggregate of 16-0, but Germany’s historic 4-3 upset against Finland puts pressure on Latvia to start collecting points.

Geekie opened the scoring with authority on Canada’s first power play at 5:19. Off the faceoff, the 2022 Arizona Coyotes first-rounder got the puck from defenceman Denton Mateychuk and snapped it top corner.

Moments later, there was more good news for Canada. A Jordan Nelson hit on Latvian assistant captain Sandis Vilmanis at the Canadian blue line was reviewed for possible knee-on-knee contact, and the initial penalty call was overturned entirely.

The Canadians kept pushing. On the rush, Brayden Yager accepted a deft cross-ice pass from the 17-year-old Celebrini and beat Latvian starter Linards Feldbergs to make it 2-0 at 7:11.

Just 1:17 into the second period, Owen Allard, Canada's only undrafted skater, deflected a Matthew Wood one-timer past Feldbergs on the power play. It was the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds forward's second goal in as many World Junior games.

At 4:46, Rehkopf, the OHL's leading scorer with the Kitchener Rangers, powered to the net for Canada's 4-0 tally. Celebrini accepted a stretch pass from Wood and raced in to knife a backhander home at 10:56.

"Having guys feed off you and playing well with different guys, it definitely helps," Celebrini said. "It helps the team and it pushes us in the right direction. It means a lot."

In the third period, captain Fraser Minten, Wood, Geekie, Rehkopf, and Matthew Poitras rounded out the scoring in a showcase of skill and consistency.

Aksels Ozols took over in net for Latvia at 3:51 after Canada went up 7-0. The Latvians took a timeout after surrendering four goals in just over four minutes early in the third. But it was too late for this game to be anything but a learning experience.

The 3,000-odd Canadian fans on hand sang Bryan Adams' "Summer of '69" as the clock ticked down. Like Celebrini and 2023 MVP Connor Bedard, the veteran rock singer hails from Vancouver.

This was Canada’s fourth all-time World Junior victory over Latvia, but not the most lopsided. Canada previously triumphed 16-0 (2009 WJC), 10-2 (2017 WJC), and 5-2 (2022 WJC).

On Friday, Canada faces a stiffer challenge in host Sweden. Earlier that day, Latvia battles Finland, which is also winless. The Latvians, who enjoyed an all-time best seventh-place finish in 2022, hope to avoid playing in this year's single-game relegation showdown.