x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Canada hockey lose World Championships opener ... to France

The French national ice hockey team scored a rather remarkable victory in their 2014 IIHF World Championships opener - shocking Olympic gold medalists Canada.

Stephane Da Costa embracing French national ice hockey teammates after their victory over Canada on Friday night. Vasily Fedosenko / Reuters / May 9, 2014
Stephane Da Costa embracing French national ice hockey teammates after their victory over Canada on Friday night. Vasily Fedosenko / Reuters / May 9, 2014

There are strange results, and then there’s this.

Canada, Olympic champions, consensus best hockey team in the world. Could probably, if we’re being honest, field three or four of the best teams in the world.

France, a hockey nation that, well, I’m not sure what you’d say about France as a hockey nation. Quick, name a French ice hockey player. I’ll wait.

Anyway, the two sides met on Friday in what should have been a pretty cut-and-dry opener to the 2014 IIHF World Hockey Championships. Canada aren’t fielding their strongest team possible – there are zero 2014 gold medal winners in the side – but still. France? Should be a piece of cake.

A very dry, stale, unappetising piece of cake, it turns out.

The French held Canada to a 2-2 tie through regulation and overtime, and then shocked them in a shootout to score a 3-2 victory. As the Agence France-Presse story below details, the French had lost by a combined 16-3 in their last two meetings with Canada at the World Championships. So, yes, even with a weaker Canadian team entered into the competition, this was still unexpected.

Canada are still fielding a roster completely composed of NHL players. France have a couple in Stephane Da Costa of Ottawa and Antoine Roussel of Dallas, as well as former NHLer Cristobal Huet, but they didn’t even qualify for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Probably no reason for Canada to worry – they’re still the best. Everyone trips now and again. Still an interesting result to open up the tournament, being held in Belarus until May 25.

For the full recap, check out the AFP story below:

France stunned Olympic champions Canada 3-2 in a shootout triumph on Friday to give them just a second win over their famed rivals in 83 years of the world championships.

Despite missing all of the team which delivered gold at the Sochi Olympics in February, Canada still boasted a squad of NHL talent. France, in contrast, had just two players who feature in the North American league.

Forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, who plays in the Swedish league, proved to be France’s winning star, scoring the crucial shootout goal against a Canada squad whose last world title came back in 2007.

The victory was the second by France against Canada at the world championships dating back to 1931 – the French previously defeated Canada in 1995.

In their most recent world championship meetings, Canada won 9-1 in 2011 and 7-2 in 2012.

France goalkeeper Cristobal Huet, who made 34 saves, denied Kyle Turris, Sean Monahan and Matt Read before Bellemare connected for the winner in the shootout.

“Any time we beat a top-six, it’s huge,” France coach Dave Henderson told the IIHF website. “Canada is where hockey is. If you beat Canada, it’s a huge thing for French hockey.”

Canada took a 2-1 lead with 9:18 remaining in the third period when Erik Gudbranson of the Florida Panthers scored.

France levelled two minutes later when Stephane Da Costa of the Ottawa Senators scored his second power-play goal with 7:25 left.

Da Costa had scored a power-play goal late in the first period to give France a 1-0 lead before Brayden Schenn from the Philadelphia Flyers tied it up at 1-1.

“You look at that team after they won that game, that’s like winning a Stanley Cup for them,” said Canada coach Dave Tippett.

Elsewhere, the Czech Republic saw off Slovakia 3-2, Russia beat Switzerland 5-0 and the United States routed Belarus 6-1.

Follow us on Twitter @SprtNationalUAE