Howden scores twice as Canada juniors clinch top spot in Group A
Carter Hart records 18 saves for shutout
Goaltender Carter Hart walked out to the concourse at KeyBank Center and the hundreds of Canadian fans waiting there began to chant his name: "CAR-TER HAAART!"
One by one Hart's teammates followed him out to survey the raucous scene after Canada routed Denmark 8-0 on Saturday to win Group A at the world junior hockey championship. But instead of having their names chanted, most of the players were greeted by fans singing the chorus to DJ Otzi's "Hey Baby," Canada's goal-scoring celebration song, often with the word "baby" replaced by the player's first name.
"I like the song, I know some of the other guys don't, I've heard some mixed reviews," said Hart, who laughed as the singing from nearby fans broke up his train of thought. "They're singing it right now. I like it. I like that song."
Canada's junior team voted before the tournament for a different song to be their celebratory anthem, but a pair of players went rogue and submitted "Hey Baby" instead. Hearing it eight times on Saturday has helped them get used to it.
"At first all of us were kind of questioning it but with the outdoor game it sounded pretty sweet with all of the crowd singing it," said Brett Howden, who led Canada with a pair of goals. "I think everyone's kind of catching onto it."
Canada clinches top seed
Robert Thomas, Sam Steel, Cale Makar, Alex Formenton, Michael McLeod and Drake Batherson rounded out the attack for Canada (3-0-1), while Cal Foote had three assists.
As the top seed in Group A, Canada will face the fourth place team from Group B in the quarter-finals on Tuesday. Their opponent will either be the Czech Republic or Switzerland, depending on the result of their game on Sunday.
Howden thinks Canada's well-rounded offence makes it one of the more dangerous teams heading into the playoffs.
"Everybody's contributing in a different way, so it was nice to try and help the team win," said Howden. "The more depth you have, the better in the long run, you're not relying on one or two lines, you've got four lines that can go out and produce. It's really exciting any time any line hits the ice."
Even though Canada and the United States could both finish the preliminary round with three wins — pending the Americans' game against Finland on Sunday — the Canadians take top spot in Group A because all three of their wins came in regulation time, which are worth more points. Canada's one loss was in the shootout, which earns them another point.
The Americans, who were idle Saturday, have won once in regulation, once in the shootout, and lost once in regulation.
Once Canada established a 3-0 lead in the first period head coach Dominique Ducharme began to rest players who had struggled with injuries.
Defenceman Dante Fabbro, who has worked to get into game shape after missing most of Canada's selection camp and two pre-season exhibitions with a lower-body contusion, did not play after the first intermission. Captain Dillon Dube, who had an injured shoulder earlier in the month, sat out the third period. Defenceman Victor Mete, on loan from the Montreal Canadiens, also stayed on the bench throughout the third.
"We just wanted to make sure that they would be 100 per cent for the quarters," said Ducharme. "With the way the game was going we were in control and we didn't want to expose them."
Although he was on the ice for a full 60 minutes, it was also a relatively easy game for Hart, who only had to make 18 saves to earn the shutout.
"The ref came over to me at one point and said 'Are you cold? I could bring you a blanket,"' said Hart. "It wasn't bad. I was just trying to focus on the play at the other end so that I'm ready for whatever comes."
Emil Gransoe stopped 36 shots for Denmark (0-3), which closes out the preliminary round on Sunday against Slovakia. A loss to the Slovaks would force Denmark to play in the relegation round.