Trail Smoke Eaters forward Philippe Lapointe (right) was named assistant captain to the Team Canada West squad at the World Jr. A Challenge along with assistant Brendan Budy (left) of the Langley Rivermen and captain Massimo Rizzo of the Coquitlam Express. Hockey Canada photo.

Team East bests West at WJAC

Team Canada West falls to Canada East for second straight loss at World Jr. A Challenge

Trail Smoke Eaters forward Owen Ozar was one of the few bright spots in Team Canada West’s 5-1 loss to Team Canada East on Sunday night at the 2019 World Jr. A Challenge in Dawson Creek.

The University of Denver commit was named Player of the Game in a tough loss to to their Canadian rival. It was Team West’s second straight loss to open the tournament, after suffering a 3-2 setback against the U.S. on Saturday.

Ayrton Martino scored two goals and set up two others for Team East in the 5-1 drubbing, while goalie Devon Levi was solid in net stopping 29 shots.

It is just the second time in 10 all-time meetings that East has beaten West; its other win came in the quarter-finals of the 2014 tournament in Kindersley, Sask.

“I had to remind our guys after the first period to just play hockey and stick to our game,” said Team Canada East head coach Martin Dagenais. “[Our players] have seen the results in past years between the West and East, but we feel like we can play with these guys. We respect them as opponents and we know they can play, but at the same time we played with no fear in the second and third periods.”

Canada West head coach Joe Martin, had all three Trail forwards playing on separate lines. As a result, Team East managed to shut down BCHL leading scorer Kent Johnson and Philippe Lapointe and their new linemates. Ozar’s speed and talent generated a handful of scoring chances, yet, he was thwarted by Levi and the East’s defence.

Martin also rarely put the Smoke Eaters trio together on the power play, despite their scoring prowess in the BCHL this season and success generating the league’s most potent power-play unit.

Ethan Edwards scored the lone Canada West goal, and West goalie Carter Gylander made 22 saves in the loss, as Team Canada struggled to find offence, going 0-for-7 on the power play.

“It is definitely frustrating,” said Team Canada West captain Massimo Rizzo. “Any time you lose, it obviously does not feel good, especially when it’s two in a row. We have put ourselves in a situation where the next two games are huge for our team and we know we have to be a lot better than we have been playing these last two games. We are going to take these next two days off to reset, and we will come back to the rink and start playing the way we know how to.”

In 2017, Team Canada West, led by Smoke Eaters forward Ross Armour, lost their first two games of the round robin, and went on to capture gold.

Canada West is back in action Wednesday night when they face Russia at 6 p.m. at the Encana Events Centre in Dawson Creek.

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