Hamilton Bulldogs duo going head-to-head in world junior semifinal

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Published August 18, 2022 at 11:19 am

Hamilton Bulldogs forwards Mason McTavish (left) and Jan Mysak. (OHL Images)

Call it a hunch, but one of the team captains in the world junior hockey championship gold-medal game will be a member of the Hamilton Bulldogs.

Bulldogs centre Mason McTavish, of course, has featured prominently for host Team Canada at the WJC in Edmonton, serving as the team captain while also leading the tournament in scoring and in goals. Czechia, which is captained by graduating Bulldogs centre Jan Mysak, will be Canada’s opponent in the semifinal on Friday (4 p.m. ET, TSN/RDS). The head-to-head matchup means a player who has graced the Bulldogs will be in the WJC final for the third season in a row.

The Czechia-Canada winner and the winner of the Sweden-Finland semifinal (8 p.m., TSN/RDS) will have a tight turnaround for the gold-medal game. That is slated for 8 p.m. on Saturday.

In 2021, Arthur Kaliyev, who is now in the Los Angeles Kings organization, helped the United States win the gold medal. Canada’s 2020 gold-winning team included forward Connor McMichael from the London Knights, who played his first 32 Ontario Hockey League games in Hamilton as a 16-year-old before being moved when Hamilton loaded up for its run at the ’18 OHL title.

On Wednesday night, Czechia upset the United States 4-2 in a quarterfinal. Mysak, who was a point-per-game scorer for the Ontario league-champion Bulldogs last season, put some wind in the underdogs’ sail by scoring a game-tying goal just before the end of the first period. The Czechs got the next two goals to force a U.S. team with seven NHL first-round choices to chase the game, then withstood a late third-period rally by the Americans.

Mysak has been a core piece for Czechia, with four goals and six points across five games in the tournament. The Montreal Canadiens prospect is also among the tournament faceoff leaders, winning 61.7 per cent of his draws.

The Litvinov, Czechia native joined the Bulldogs in January 2020 after his first experience in the WJC. COVID-19 health protections, which kept the OHL on hiatus for an entire season, kept Mysak from playing a full OHL season until the past campaign. He had 34 goals and 64 points across 61 regular-season games. He took on took on more checking responsibilities during Hamilton’s run to the OHL title and a runner-up finish in the Memorial Cup. Mysak, who turned 20 years old during the Memorial Cup, is expected to move up to Montreal’s American League farm team in Laval, Que., this season.

McTavish, a first-round choice of the Anaheim Ducks, has a tournament-most 14 points, including seven goals, for a Canadian team that is 5-0 in the tournament. That goals total also includes scoring a Team Canada record-tying four goals during an 11-1 win against Slovakia early in the tournament. McTavish was the seventh Canadian to score a so-called mortarboard trick in the tournament.

The 19-year-old McTavish joined the Bulldogs in a blockbuster trade-deadline swap with the Peterborough Petes last January. Over 48 regular-season, OHL playoff and Memorial Cup games, he tallied 36 goals and 77 points.

The Team Canada group also includes Freelton, Ont., defenceman Ethan Del Mastro, a Chicago NHL prospect who is the captain of the Mississauga Steelheads. Backup goalie Sebastian Cossa, a Detroit Red Wings prospect, is a Hamilton native whose club team is the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western league (WHL).

The WJC, normally played immediately after Christmas Day, was rescheduled to the summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic and spread of the Omicron variant.

The Czechia win squelched Team USA’s hope of winning back-to-back WJC golds for the first time. The Americans have more gold medals than Canada over the last 12 years (4-3), but have never made the tourney final two years in a row since a knockout format was adopted in 1996.

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