While the NHL playoffs have been exciting fans in North America, a red-hot Matt Duchene has been leading team Canada and tearing up the competition at the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championships in the Czech Republic. Duchene is one of seven Colorado Avalanche players who accepted invitations to compete in the tournament – which concluded it’s seven-game group stage on Tuesday. All of the Avs’ representative’s teams made the eight-team, single-elimination playoffs which start with four quarterfinal games on Thursday.
Canada is the tournamnet’s top seed and heavy favorite after going unbeaten and posting an impressive 49 goals in their seven group stage games. No NHL team has as many representatives on team Canada as the Avs do with four – Duchene, Ryan O’Reilly, Nathan MacKinnon, and Tyson Barrie.
Duchene leads Canada’s potent offense with four goals and seven assists for a tournament-leading 11 points. This is the fourth time the Halliburton, Ontario native has represented his country at the World Championships. He capped off group play with a two-goal, two-assist performance in a 10-1 victory over Austria on Tuesday. It was his second four-point game of the tournament after putting up a goal and three assists in a 10-0 win over Germany.
O’Reilly is playing at a point-per-game pace and is tied for third in the tournament with seven helpers in his third World Championships appearance. He had two-assist games against Germany and Sweden.
MacKinnon looks to be fully recovered from the foot injury that forced him to miss the final 18 games of the Avs’ season. The 19-year-old started the tournament off on the right foot with a goal and two assists in Canada’s opening-game win over Latvia. He has three goals and seven points so far in the tournament.
Canada is number 1 with a bullet, like this shot from Nathan MacKinnon's shot to help Canada clinch 1st in group 'A' https://t.co/qQqKhrKG81
— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) May 10, 2015
Tyson Barrie registered four points and a tournament-leading plus-9 rating from Canada’s blue line in group play. His lone goal came on a one-timer against Austria on a perfect feed from O’Reilly.
— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) May 12, 2015
Team USA earned the tournement’s other top seed by winning Group B with six wins. Playing in his first World Championships, Zach Redmond provided a huge game-tying assist to force overtime in USA’s dramatic Group B clinching victory on Tuesday. The assist was the first point of Redmond’s career with Team USA. The 26-year-old defenseman is averaging just over five minutes of ice time per game and has been in and out of the lineup as USA’s seventh defenseman.
Jan Hejda – who was named the alternate captain of the Czech Republic team before the tournament – helped lead the host nation to third place in Group A. The impending unrestricted free agent has two assists and a plus-2 rating in his seventh World Championships.
Team Switzerland snuck into the quarterfinals in part thanks to Reto Berra. The Avs’ backup goaltender didn’t register a win in his four starts, but he did help earn his team valuable points by forcing three games into overtime. Berra’s goals-against average (3.57) and save percentage (.876) were reminiscent of the ugly numbers he put up early this past season in Colorado, but they were marred by a 7-3 loss to Canada.
Thursday’s quarterfinal schedule:
7:15 a.m. – USA vs Switzerland
8:15 a.m. – Canada vs Belarus
11:15 p.m. – Sweden vs Russia
12:15 p.m. – Finland vs Czech Republic
Countries with Avalanche players are in bold.
Nathan is a staff writer for Mile High Sports. He can be reached on Twitter at @TheRealNatron.