Finland did a superb job of making their home fanbase excited on Saturday, defeating Canada 6-5 in a classic World Junior game to give their opponents their worst tournament result in 18 years.
Throughout the tournament, one of the biggest topic discussions in regards to Canada had to do with Travis Konecny’s ice time. Considered to be one of Canada’s most talented players, Konecny was often left off the ice in tight situations where they could have used his great shot and quick legs to generate some offense.
So when it was announced that the Philadelphia Flyers would start the game on the fourth line with Rourke Chartier and Mitchell Stephens, some people were left scratching their heads. That all changed five minutes into the game after some tremendous work along the boards allowed the Canadians to take the 1-0 lead. Stephens would force a turnover by a Finnish defender, allowing John Quenneville to steal the puck behind the net. Quenneville would then make a great pass to Travis Konecny in front, who crossed just in front of the crease before putting it past the goal line for the 1-0 lead.
Finland didn’t look like the strong team most people expected them to be throughout the game, allowing a second goal off of a play that Veini Vehvilainen would want back. After Julien Gauthier used his strength to fight off an opponent before shooting the puck on net, Dylan Strome picked up the loose inside the crease to tap in his fourth of the tournament to give Canada the 2-0 advantage.
With just 11 seconds left in the opening period, the Finns somehow managed to beat Mackenzie Blackwood with a weak goal. Patrik Laine, who scored in all four of the round robin games heading into the game, took a shot right to the five-hole, just trickling between Blackwood’s legs and in to cut the lead in half heading into the second intermission.
Finland’s effort looked a little stronger in the start of the second, tying the game up at two apiece. Antti Kalapudas took advantage of Brandon Hickey falling down at the Canadian blue line before beating Blackwood with a quick shot to make it 2-2.
Canada, however, would find a way to end Vehiainen’s night early. Jake Virtanen forced a turnover along the board, sending it off to Lawson Crouse who beat the Finnish goaltender with a weak one glove side. The Finns would decide to let Kaapo Kahkonen finish off the game, something that really worked them
The Finns would decide to let Kaapo Kahkonen finish off the game, something that really worked in their favour. In fact, the team was able to feed off his strong play to allow themselves to take the 4-3 lead heading into the second intermission. Aleksi Saarela would tie things up with five minutes left in the period after somehow squeaking a terrible shot from the goal line to make it 3-3. Then, two minutes later, Julius Nattinen picked up a rebound very close to the net, flipping it over his Barrie Colts teammate Blackwood to make it 4-3 heading into the final period of play.
Goaltending seemed to be an afterthought in the contest. Three minutes into the third period, Mitch Marner got his first goal of the contest on the power play after a strong effort around the net resulted in a power-play marker for the future Toronto Maple Leafs forward.
A minute after, however, Finland took the lead yet again. Of course, it was their first line that would find the back of the net, with Sebastian Aho capitalizing on a rebound in front to make it 5-4 Finns.
But, like mentioned before, goaltending clearly didn’t shine in this game. A minute after that, Marner got his second goal of the game after making a great toe-drag move around two Finnish defenders before roofing it top corner for the 5-5 goal.
The scoring massacre wasn’t finished. With Jake Virtanen and Joe Hicketts in the box, Patrik Laine took a laser beam of a slap shot with six minutes left to go in the game to put the Finns back on top. It was the goal that would sink the ship for Canadians, who despite taking a lead in the first, couldn’t do anything more in the end to give Finland the 6-5 victory ot advance to the next round.
With the loss, Canada missed out on advancing to the semi-finals for the first time in 18 years, when the 1998 tournament happened to take place in Helsinki as well. Finland will head to the semi-finals on Monday to take on their hated rivals from Sweden, who they surprisngly beat in the 2014 World Juniors.
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