Two games into the United States’ schedule at the 2021 World Junior Championship, Ranger prospect Brett Berard took a sliver of opportunity and has forced himself into the picture in a positive way.
Berard slotted in on the USA’s fourth line in a sloppy 5-3 loss to Russia. The 9:52 of icetime he received offered little opportunity but he nonetheless made the most of it. The fifth-round pick was noticeable every shift, bringing energy on the forecheck and making decisions on the puck with confidence. Berard registered two shots on goal and set up Flyers’ prospect Bobby Brink with what should have been an easy goal.
Glorious scoring chance for Bobby Brink, but he couldn't get the puck on net. pic.twitter.com/tlLjc8PAPv— Ryan Quigley (@TheRyanQuigley) December 26, 2020
Berard also created chaos around the crease, playing his part in the team’s second goal.
Perhaps because Berard played well, but likely also in part because of the inferior opponent, Berard was bumped up to the third line for the USA’s game against Austria on Saturday. The Americans blew out their competition, winning 11-0. Berard played his part with a three-point performance. He hit the post on a great move through the middle lane early in the period.
Brett Berard hits the post off a great rush. Ray Ferraro is gushing about his play so far in this tournament. pic.twitter.com/eVTWNLbhfT— Adam Herman (@AdamZHerman) December 27, 2020
He did find the back of the net later, burning Austria’s defense on a transition rush.
Brett Berard, shot out of a cannon, blows past the Austria defense and scores.— Adam Herman (@AdamZHerman) December 27, 2020
Fifth Round. pic.twitter.com/OxfbQkvZDA
All things considered, Berard’s first couple of games have gone as well as anyone could have hoped. The United States are going to live and die by their top-six and goaltending, but Berard’s ability to find ways to make something happen in limited opportunities has been a breath of fresh air for the bottom-six. Ray Ferraro, doing color commentary on TSN, remarked on multiple occasions that he’s been impressed by Berard in what has been his first viewings of him.
Braden Schneider, on the other hand, made an incredible anticlimactic debut for Team Canada. Less than nine minutes into the host country’s opening game against Germany, Schneider was ejected for an illegal check to the head.
You can say what you want about Schumacher keeping his head down or being oblivious of his surroundings, but this is a major in the NHL, let alone in international hockey, where the rules on headshots are explicit and strict. From the bodychecking section of the IIHF rulebook:
There is no such thing as a clean bodycheck to the back, head, or lower body of an opponent.
Schneider received a swift five-minute major and game misconduct. The Canadian bench did not protest and the TSN broadcast crew immediately recognized it as the correct call.
There was surely no malicious intent from Schneider and he didn’t leave his feet, come from the blindside, or come in late. The size mismatch plays a role in the head contact, but that’s his problem and the onus is on him to adjust. He did the job he wanted well enough by stepping into the lane and forcing Schumacher to dispose of the puck. It’s the follow-through that got him in trouble.
As of this article’s publication, the IIHF has not ruled on any discipline for Schneider. It’s possible, if not likely, that he will receive a one-game suspension for the hit. If he does, it will put him out of action for tonight’s contest against Slovakia.
Conor Garand was Canada’s backup goaltender in the opener against Germany. It’s likely the 2020 fourth-round pick will see action at some point in the round-robin portion of the tournament. Hunter Skinner was a healthy scratch in both of the USA’s games.