Team Canada came up just short at the 2017 World Junior Hockey Championship, falling to Team USA in the Gold Medal Game. Finland didn’t even get a chance to play for a medal after one of the more difficult showings in their history.
For 2018, both nations had something to prove, and their meeting on the first day of the tournament was primed to be a high-energy contest.
The first few minutes were a bit of feeling-out process as both sides found their legs, with a few chances for both teams.
One of those chances for Finland created a power play to give them a great chance to open the scoring. They had a few looks on the man advantage but were ultimately unable to beat Canadian goaltender Carter Hart.
Just after the penalty expired, Boris Katchouk got launched on a breakaway, getting the puck around Finnish netminder Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and over the goal line. It seemed rather clear that the net had been dislodged by Katchouk’s move before the puck went in, but the goal stood after the referee reviewed the play, granting Canada a 1-0 lead.
Just moments after the play resumed, Canada received its first power play of the game. Seconds into the five-on-four, Sam Steel was picked out at the side of the net by Taylor Raddysh, and had an open net to shoot at to give his side a 2-0 lead.
The Canadian forwards continued to get into the Finnish end while pressing for a third goal, but efforts to set up teammates right in front of the net were thwarted by Finland’s defence, who were able to stick to their checks and knock down passes.
At the opposite end, Joni Ikonen got the puck on the half wall and was double-teamed by Canadian forwards, leaving defenceman Juuso Valimaki open for a shot. The puck was pinballed around the front of the net before getting kicked out to the side, where Aleksi Heponiemi was waiting to pounce, and easily pulled his team back within one.
That scoreline didn’t hold for long, as Victor Mete took the puck and rushed from his end to the offensive zone. The relay went first to Jonah Gadjovich, then to Drake Batherson to the left of the net, and Luukkonen had little chance to prevent the 3-1 goal from being scored.
The transition play of the Canadian defence was evident even while the team was down a man, with the forwards sent away on offensive rushes, and even a two-on-one on the third power-play chance of the period for the Finns.
The penalties came back to bite the Canadians early in the second, as defenceman Henri Jokiharju was able to make it a 3-2 game by bouncing the puck off a Canadian defender, past a screen set up by Ikonen, and behind Hart.
Ikonen attempted to have another positive impact on a rush up the ice later in the period, but was shadowed all the way by Mete, who won the puck back for Canada. The defenceman sent the puck the other way, and it eventually popped up in the air right in front of Taylor Raddysh. Raddysh waited for the puck to drop, and with it still wobbling, fired a dipping shot by Luukkonen to make it a two-goal advantage once again.
Past the midway point of the third, the puck was tumbling behind Hart and getting close to becoming the Finns’ third goal, but a desperation dive from defenceman Cal Foote saved a goal just before the puck completely crossed the goal line.
Oh my god what a save by Cal Foote pic.twitter.com/GzjXLTYmn7— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) December 26, 2017
Finland pushed for another goal late in the period, but were unable to get any closer, as Canada took the 4-2 decision.
Canada is back in action on Wednesday versus Slovakia. Finland’s next opponent will be Denmark to start Thursday’s slate.