VANCOUVER — MacKenzie Entwistle may be the 13th forward on Canada’s junior hockey team, but the 19-year-old right-winger isn’t concerned about his spot in the lineup.
“I don’t really think about it too much,” he said Thursday after Canada beat Switzerland 3-2 at the world junior hockey championship. “I’m playing for my country. ... Just playing my game and that’s been working.”
It was Canada’s extra forward Tyler Steenbergen who scored the winner in the gold-medal game at last year’s tournament.
That knowledge fuels Entwistle.
“It doesn’t really matter where you play in the lineup,” he said. “The Steenbergen goal, obviously, Canadians remember that one pretty well. That’s just a friendly reminder to just kind of stick with it.”
The Chicago Blackhawks prospect scored in Thursday’s matchup, and is the only player to put up goals in both of Canada’s round-robin wins.
Cody Glass and Noah Dobson also scored in the victory, while Philipp Kurashev registered a pair of power-play goals for the Swiss.
Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Ian Scott stopped 15-of-17 shots for Canada.
Switzerland’s Akira Schmid — the netminder for the U.S. Hockey League’s Omaha Lancers — had 29 saves.
Canada has two wins in round-robin play, while the Swiss have yet to tally a victory at the tournament.
Team Canada needed some versatility in the lineup on Thursday and Entwistle is a big-bodied player who can play wherever he’s needed, said head coach Tim Hunter.
“We talked when we picked the team about having guys that are flexible and willing to embrace different roles than they normally play on their club team,” he said.
“Flexibility for our players was a real factor and we knew he could play right or centre and kill penalties and maybe even be a big body on the power play.”
The coach juggled his lineup Thursday when the squad seemed to lose energy midway through the game.
Hunter moved Joe Veleno and Alexis Lafreniere down, saying they “didn’t play very well,” so their ice time was limited.
Veleno saw 5:19 of ice time and Lafreniere’s nine shifts totalled 6:49.
The switch gave Entwistle an opportunity to shine, connecting with Shane Bowers to score midway through the second period.
“It just seems he always finds a way to get on the scoreboard and he did that (Thursday) and it was a big goal for us,” Hunter said.
Thursday’s game followed a blowout Wednesday night when Canada trampled Denmark 14-0.
The decisive win may have gone to some players heads, said Glass.
“With 14-0 sometimes you create bad habits and think it is going to be easy going into the next game,” he said.
“But I feel like penalty trouble was probably the biggest thing in (Thursday’s) game, taking penalties at the wrong times. We got out of it and came out with the win, so that’s all that matters.”
Swiss coach Christian Wohlwend was impressed with how his group performed against the Canadians.
“Our team played amazing. We play against one of the best teams in the tournament and it was freaking close,” he said. “But when you don’t score 5-on-5, and we create a lot of good scoring chances, then you can’t win against Canada.”
Wohlwend added it’s more difficult to ice a strong Swiss team at the world juniors than for Canada. There are simply more players in the Canadian junior system and they’re all used to playing on the smaller ice found in North America, he said.
“It’s just normal that you guys, that Canada is so good,” Wohlwend said.
Team Canada will be back in action Saturday, battling the Czech Republic in Vancouver.
NOTES: Both of Switzerland’s goals came on the power play Thursday. Canadian coach Tim Hunter said the team is working on different penalty-kill combinations to get “a more concerted effort and a little more detail.” ... Swiss defenceman Davyd Barandun left the game after being hit hard by Maxime Comtois. ... A crowd of 17,102 hockey fans took in the game at Vancouver’s Rogers Arena.