Celebrini’s 5-point performance leads Canada over Latvia at world juniors

Macklin Celebrini had a goal and four assists as Canada hammered Latvia 10-0 at the world junior hockey championship on Wednesday.

Conor Geekie and Carson Rehkopf, with two each, Brayden Yager, Owen Allard, Fraser Minten, Matthew Wood and Matthew Poitras also scored.

Celebrini’s five points were two short of the national record for a single game at the world juniors — a mark held by six players, including Connor Bedard at last year’s tournament in Halifax.

Mathis Rousseau made his second start in goal for Canada less than 30 hours after leading his country to a 5-2 victory over Finland in their Group A opener.

Linards Feldbergs allowed seven goals for the overmatched Latvians, who dropped their first game 6-0 to hosts Sweden. Aksels Ozols replaced his teammate early in the third period.

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Canada is in Group A with the Finns, Swedes, Latvians and Germany at the annual under-20 tournament. Group B consists of the United States, Czechia, Slovakia, Switzerland and Norway.

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Looking for a third straight gold medal despite missing an impressive list of NHL talent, with Bedard right at the top, Canada entered 3-0 against Latvia all-time with a combined 31-4 scoreline, including a 16-0 victory on Dec. 26, 2009.

Things weren’t quite that bad on this night. The Latvians, unsurprisingly, were also never close.

Geekie got things going five seconds into a Canadian power play at 5:19 of the opening period went he snapped his first of the tournament past Feldbergs from almost the same spot where he always ends his warmup routine each game.

Ty Nelson was then assessed a major for kneeing on a phantom call that resulted in a long delay — the DJ at Scandinavium arena played the song “What’s Up?” by 1990s group 4 Non Blonds that includes the lyric “What’s going on?” — that eventually saw the defenceman’s penalty completely expunged from the record after video review.

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Celebrini, the 17-year-old presumptive top pick at the 2024 NHL draft, picked up his second assist of the period at 7:11 when he moved over the Latvian blue line and fed Yager, who fired his first glove side.

Latvia survived a 5-on-3 power play three early in the middle period, but Allard scored his second with Canada still up a man on a deflection at 1:30.

Rehkopf, who started the tournament as the 13th forward despite having 31 goals in 31 games with the Ontario Hockey League’s Kitchener Rangers, was promoted to a line with Celebrini and scored his first when he stepped past a Latvian defender with ease and slid the puck home at 4:46 for a 4-0 lead.

Celebrini stretched the advantage to five when he scored his second on a breakaway after collecting a nice pass from Wood and finishing with a move to the backhand at 10:56.

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Then floodgates really opened.

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Minten and Wood scored early in the third to chase Feldbergs before Geekie and Rehkopf doubled their accounts on the night, with Celebrini picking up his fifth point on Canada’s 9-0 goal.

Poitras made it an even 10 with nine minutes left in regulation.

Finland tried to make Celebrini’s life difficult in the opener by targeting the star forward at every opportunity.

Head coach Alan Letang said his player simply came back to the bench smiling.

“You can’t let it affect you or else it will throw you off your game,” Celebrini said. “Don’t like getting cross-checked in the face, but when it happens you can’t get too rattled.”

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