World junior championship: Canada flips over flopping by Dougie Hamilton, Mark Scheifele — but it paid off

Neate Sager

As much as Canadians love to kvetch about international hockey officiating, it was eventually their friend on Friday at the world junior championship.

Team Canada, which beat Slovakia 6-3, got off the deck after Dougie Hamilton and Mark Scheifele each hit the deck to draw penalties late in the second period. With Canada down two goals and reduced to 10 forwards after by major penalties and game misconducts to JC Lipon (for checking to the head) and Anthony Camara (for charging), desperate times called for desperate measures. First the 6-foot-5 Hamilton, after being interfered with and cut, fell to his knees, ostensibly to draw the referees' attention to the foul.

Defenceman Morgan Rielly, Hamilton's replacement on the ensuing power play, scored to pare the margin to 3-2. Minutes later, the 6-foot-3, 187-pound Scheifele knocked down Slovakia's Tomas Rusina. When the Slovaks' Martin Reway — listed at six inches shorter and some 20 pounds lighter at 5-9, 165 — made the rookie mistake of retaliating with a light bump, the Winnipeg Jets prospect flopped. Ty Rattie tied the game nine seconds into the power play. By the end of the period, Scheifele had put Canada ahead for good on his way to being named Canada's best player of the day by the IIHF.

The IIHF world U20 championship is about winning, not who plays the purest hockey. The officials also made a non-call after Scheifele was taken down in a knee-on-knee collision early in the game. It's understandable if that would have prompted not caring much about showing up officials.

Regardless, diving is not seen as part of The Canadian Way. Hamilton and Scheifele's flopping, even after the earlier penalties that reduced Canada to 17 skaters, set off an intense early-morning debate on Twitter.

Perhaps Canada shouldn't be embarrassed, but the IIHF should be for having officials who were gulled into calling penalties. The high stick on Hamilton was legitimate. The infraction Scheifele drew was dubious and the dive was more than "minor embellishment," as TSN's James Duthie described it.

Valerie Wutti's take that all's fair in international hockey might win the moment.

A regulation loss to Slovakia would have been disastrous for Team Canada. It actually would have created the possibility that Canada could end up in the relegation round even if it won one of its last two group games vs. Russia and the United States. Remember, Slovakia cadged a point in the standings by taking Russia to overtime on Wednesday and still has to play overmatched Germany. Granted, what would Don Cherry make of all this?

All told, Canada took 56 penalty minutes on the day, one off its most ever in a world junior game. (The 1987 Piestany Punchup has been stricken from the record.)

Scheifele gets worked over by opponents regularly in the Ontario Hockey League with the Barrie Colts and always seems to bounce back, as he did on Friday by coming back after an uncalled knee-on-knee check. Evidently, saying the end justifies the means is too glib by half for some Canadian observers, but the way the future Jet got after it was vital for Team Canada after a shaky first 30 minutes against a would-be giant-killer.

Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.