Heading into the New Year, two Portland Winterhawks players are representing their country at the highest division of the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships. Winterhawks goaltender Joel Hofer and forward Simon Knak have spent the last two weeks in Czech Republic competing against the best under-20 players in the world.
Hofer is looking to help Hockey Canada win its 18th gold medal at World Juniors. As one of three Canadian Hockey League goaltenders on Canada’s roster, Hofer earned his first ever international start in group play against Germany on December 30, stopping 18-of-19 shots to secure his first victory at World Juniors. Hofer’s efforts in net garnered recognition as Canada’s Player of the Game and solidified him as the team’s number one netminder moving forward.
The Winnipeg, MB native helped lead the Canadians to the semifinal round, where they will face-off against the reigning champions from Finland on Saturday, January 4 at 10:00 a.m. PT. Through four international games, Hofer is 3-0-0-0 with a 1.65 goals-against-average and .923 save percentage.
Hofer was passed on during the WHL Bantam Draft and he has since emerged as not only one of the best junior goaltenders in the world.
Simon Knak recently wrapped up his World Junior experience with Team Switzerland after a 3-1 loss to Russia in the quarterfinal round. The first year Winterhawk put together a strong campaign with his native country, scoring two goals and taking 11 shots on goal in five games.
The Zürich, SUI native played one of his best tournament games against Finland on New Year’s Eve and he scored a key third period to help solidify Switzerland in second place of its group. Knak was honored as Switzerland’s Player of the Game and he will take the international experience back to Portland next week. Since Knak is just 17 years old, he can look forward to playing two more years at World Juniors.
Hofer and Knak are the 20th and 21st Winterhawks to compete at the event this decade.