Canada faced Finland in today's World Junior Championship semi-final game, to determine who would play the Sweden in the gold medal match.
As per usual there were a ton of Canadian fans at the game, and you could even hear some 'Go Canada Go' chants during the semi-final between Sweden and Russia.
Canada would be in tough, facing possibly the hottest goalie in the tournament, Juuse Sarros.
Zachary Fucale deservedly started the game for Canada.
Canada is 22-7-6 all time vs the Finns at the WJC.
Canada looked to impose their physical game early, as the line of Reinhart-Horvat-Laughton created havoc on the forecheck. They've been one of the best lines of the tournament for Canada.
The Canadians carried the play for the following few minutes, but Juuse Saros was up to the task.
The often maligned Jonathan Drouin was up to his old tricks, trying to create offense on his own, rather than relying on his linesmates Mantha and Hudon. Of course, Drouin is skilled enough to actually pull off beautiful plays by his own, but coach Sutter is surely frustrated by his lack of passing.
Fucale wasn't tested early by many high scoring chances, but he did make a nice save off a strong effort by Habs prospect Artturi Lehkonen that led to a Teuvo Teravainen scoring chance.
Other than a couple sporadic shifts, Canada dominated the first ten minutes of play due to their insatiable pressure on the Finnish D.
Matt Dumba destroyed the Canadian momentum by taking his 6th minor penalty of the tournament, and most of them have been terrible decisions. It's surprising that he's playing in the NHL considering his lack of discipline.
Curtis Lazar did great work on the PK, and Fred Gauthier's face-off prowess led to a relatively easy kill for Canada, helped along by the poise of Zachary Fucale.
Anthony Mantha had a decent scoring chance shortly after the PK, but once again Saros was quick to react and cleared the zone himself.
Finland seemed to be inspired by the powerplay, and their intensity level rose by leaps and bounds, creating a few good scoring chances in the Canadian zone, but none that could beat Fucale.
With roughly 8 minutes remaining in the first, the teams settled down and started exchanging low quality scoring chances. Finland did a great job playing a 1-3-1 and preventing Canada from establishing any sustained pressure in the offensive zone.
Derrick Pouliot had a great chance to open the scoring with 4 minutes remaining in the first, but Saros shut him down. Nashville has once again found another Finnish gem in nets.
Both Ekblad and Petan had terrible giveaways a few feet away from Fucale, but Finland was unable to capitalize on either error.
In the dying seconds of the period there was a goal line scramble near the Finnish net, but Canada was unable to find the puck and the period ended 0-0.
Even though he did not score, Curtis Lazar had a fantastic period. He oozes intensity and Ottawa fans should be happy to know they've got a great prospect in the pipeline.
The shots finished Â 7-7 although most of Finland's shots came from the blue-line, and weren't necessarily high end scoring chances. That being said, Canada's scoring chances weren't exactly top quality either, and they would need to do better if they were to have any chance at beating Saros.
Canada managed to do a great job activating their defense. Ekblad, Reinhart and Pouliot all created scoring chances by jumping up into the play.
Unfortunately Canada did not create enough traffic in front of Saros, and the diminutive goalie has a habit of stealing games.
Finland started the period with a furious pace, and a poor read by Derrick Pouliot led to a good scoring chance. Fucale made no mistake, and the game remained 0-0.
A high stick to Anthony Mantha put Canada on the powerplay.
Nic Petan once again replaced Charles Hudon on the PP, playing on a line with Mantha and Drouin. Curtis Lazar played on the point with Derrick Pouliot.
Canada did a good job setting up in the offensive zone, but a shot from a low scoring zone led to a quick clear by the Finns. Drouin made up for it a few seconds later as he dangled several Finns to give Derrick Pouliot a great scoring chance, but unfortunately he couldn't hit the net. Canada had 2 shots on the powerplay.
Shortly after the PP, a crazy bounce (emphasis on crazy) led to the puck drifting directly in front of Fucale. The only player that seemed to notice was the Finnish forward Joni Nikko, who made no mistake and buried the puck for a 1-0 Finland lead.
As Finland worked off the momentum of their uncanny goal, Gauthier took a penalty which led to the second PP of the game for the Finns.
This time Finland would make no mistake on the man advantage. Teravainen found Habs prospect Artturi Lehkonen alone beside Fucale, and Lehkonen made a quick move to score on a defenseless Fucale. 2-0 Finland.
Nic Petan, Connor McDavid and Curtis Lazar did their best to quickly answer with a goal. They came very close to reducing the lead to one, and drew a penalty leading Canada to the powerplay.
Unfortunately Petan also received 10 minutes for the abuse of an official, which means he may be subject to additional discipline.
The best scoring chance of the powerplay came from a Finnish breakaway. Fucale made the save but was called for a tripping penalty on the play, which ended the pitiful Canadian powerplay.
It's worth noting that the Fucale penalty would have never been called in North America, however this game is being played in IIHF ice and the rules are a lot less lenient. It was, in fact, a legitimate penalty.
Fucale made several great saves during the Finnish powerplay, and a Bo Horvat blocked shot ensured that the Finnish lead remained at 2 goals.
A great forecheck by Curtis Lazar led to the opening goal for Canada. Jonathan Drouin pounced on the Lazar wrap-around attempt, showed great patience and cut the Finnish lead to 1.
Drouin primed with adrenaline took a 2 minute minor for a hit to the head shortly thereafter, which comes with a 10 minute misconduct. Canada was sent back to the penalty kill without two of their best centers. To be honest it was a questionable call at best, but international rules have always been quite strict.
Judge for yourself if he deserved 12 minutes worth of penalties on the play.
Fortunately Fucale had no intentions of giving the Finns another 2 goal lead, and shut the door during the very important penalty kill by making 2 saves.
Artturi Lehkonen made life miserable for Fucale, crashing the net every single chance he got. Albeit not the biggest guy on the ice, he has Gallagher blood in him. He's going to be a good player for Montreal.
After Zachary Fucale made the save of the tournament....
Finland scored on a great shot by Ristolainen. Canadian coverage was poor as both Ekblad and McDavid got dangled, but it was definitely a great shot that beat Fucale cleanly.
And with that, Finland went up 3-1.
Canada failed to profit from an extended powerplay to end the second period, and found themselves 20 minutes away from playing for bronze.
Chances were 10-3 for Finland in the second.
Canada has outscored their opponents 11-3 in the third period of this tournament, and they would need some of those late heroics if they hoped to play Sweden for gold.
Canada continued their powerplay in the opening minutes of the third period, but they were not able to capitalize on the man-advantage. The Finnish penalty kill has been exemplary all tournament.
Canada continued to pressure, but Finland was making quick work of any Canadian attempt to set up in their defensive zone. Clearly Canada was feeling the heat, but Finland was in no rush and simply reacted to most Canadian attempts with simple, strong defensive plays.
Sam Reinhart drew a penalty 5 minutes into the third, which coincided with Drouin leaving the box after his length stay.
This would be Canada's fifth powerplay in a row, having attempted a total of 4 shots in the previous 4 opportunities.
However Canada seemed to be trying to find the perfect play, and some over-passing led to a good scoring chance for the Finns.
On two occasions Nic Petan sent the puck to the front of Saros' net, but no Canadian forward manage to make it count.
The penalty ended, and it was evident that Canada did not shoot enough. They tried to force the pass instead of taking high quality shots.
Finland carried the play for several minutes after the powerplay, as the time remaining in the game quickly elapsed.
The Finns did a great job at frustrating most of Canada's rushes, and played a smart, defensively responsible game. Canada's frustration was apparent as they started to struggle completing even the most basic pass.
The Canadians were unable to create much, if any sustained pressure during the majority of the third period.
Terrible passing (notably by Matt Dumba) meant that Canada gave up their offensive pressure on several occasions.
Charles Hudon had a couple scoring chances with 6:30 minutes left in the third, but was frustrated by Saros. Hudon also maintained offensive pressure by intercepting a Finnish pass. Although he gets limited minutes, he makes the best out of them.
With 5 minutes remaining in the third period Canada's desperation started to show. Finland was lining up 4 players at the blueline to keep Canada's attack at bay.
Unfortunately Morrissey took a penalty with 4:31 left in the game, and Finland went to the powerplay.
Finland was happy to waste time, as they stood behind their own net whenever they could.
Canada had no choice but to apply pressure, even if they were down a man. Unfortunately a Derrick Pouliot back-check led to a penalty shot. Finland claimed their shooter was hurt, and Teravainen was allowed to take the shot.
Teravainen made no mistake, and Finland went up 4-1.
The fat lady sang as Teravainen scored an empty net goal.
The game ended 5-1 in favour of Finland, and the shots were 23-22 in favour of the Finns as well.
I have to note, Finland deserved this win. They were the better team and worked harder than Canada throughout the game. Canada lacked finish, and Saros made them pay.
Maybe next year Canada won't leave great players at home (Domi, Poirier, Nurse) in favour for weaker players. Canada can no longer afford to bring lower quality players and rely on the discrepancy of talent. Hockey is not 'Canada's game' as Gatorade and Nike commercials try to tell you. The rest of the world has caught up, and Canada has to be smarter when picking their rosters.
That being said, kudos to the Finns for beating Canada for the first time in 12 years. They deserved it, and they certainly deserve to be fighting for gold in the finals.
The match-up will feature 3 Habs prospects. Artturi Lehkonen for the Finns. Sebastian Collberg and Jacob de la Rose for the Swedes. The game is at 1 pm on TSN.
Canada will face Russia in the bronze game tomorrow. The game is at 9 am on TSN.
- World Juniors 2014 Game Thread: Canada vs Finland
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- World Juniors 2014 Game Thread: Sweden vs Russia
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