It wasn’t pretty, but a dominant effort by future NHL stars Ryan Merkley and Benoît-Olivier Groulx late in the game put Canada in the Youth Olympic finals on Sunday thanks to a 4-3 win over Finland.

It would take until the final seconds of the opening period for the first goal to find the back of the net. With two Canadians sitting in the box, Toni Utunen converted a one-timer from Jesperi Kotkaniemi into the first goal of the game, beating Alexis Gravel with the blast to make it 1-0 Finland.

Then, just 30 seconds into the second period and still on the two-man advantage, Finland scored once again. This time, Jesse Moilanen beat Gravel with a shot, doubling Finland’s lead with 30 minutes remaining in the game.

Penalty issues were easily killing Canada and when Jared McIssac went off for a head check with three minutes off the board in the second, it looked like bad news. Fortunately, Carson Focht found a way to beat Finnish netminder Jimi Uusitalo with four minutes complete, bringing Canada within a goal.

2:32 seconds later, Canada tied everything up at two. QMJHL Draft prospect Anderson MacDonald sniped the puck past Uusitalo near the net, scoring the first even strength goal of the game to tie it up at two after 30 minutes of play in the contest.

Both teams played very solid in the third period, but it would be a late goal by Finland that would put a major scare on Canada’s stars. With less than six minutes to go, Kotkaniemi got his second of the game to give his team the advantage late, scoring their first even strength goal of the contest.

Fortunately for the strong team in red and white, Canada would tie it on the power play with four minutes left. Benoît-Olivier Groulx, a very likely option for the top pick in the QMJHL Draft, took a pass from Ryan Merkley, who should hear his name called first in the OHL Draft, before beating the Finnish netminder to make it 3-3 late.

Groulx and Merkley both were responsible in tying up the game, so it made sense that they would find a way to win the game too. With no overtime, the game went straight to a shootout, something Canada wasn’t going to struggle with. Both Groulx and Merkley scored in the skills competition, while Gravel stopped both shots he had to face to give Canada the 4-3 victory in a come-from-behind contest.

With the win, Canada will either play against Russia, who beat Canada earlier in the tournament, or USA, who they beat, in the Youth Olympic finals on Sunday. Finland will play the loser of that game in the bronze medal game on Saturday.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

About The Author

Steven took a different route towards his hockey interests. Starting out as a big Habs fan, he started to gravitate towards the more obscure levels of hockey, such as the low level tournaments in Asia, strange club matches between teams most people in North America can’t pronounce, and even some 3am contests between Bulgaria and New Zealand. Aside from his love for strange hockey events, Steven occasionally acts as a mediocre ball hockey goalie following a failed attempt at making it to the NHL as a fourth line house league grinder. Beyond hockey, Steven is an avid racing fan and loves to chat about NASCAR, F1, Indycar, you name it. Oh, and don’t get him started on music. That is, unless you want the whole history of metal and a guitar lesson. Currently, Steven is a credentialed media member with the Mississauga Steelheads of the OHL, as well as with the Oakville Blades of the OJHL. Steven has also hosted the television show "The Hockey House" on TVCogeco in Ontario, as well as a segment under the same with on LeafsTV in Toronto. Home page: http://www.thehockeyhouse.net

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