Canada defeats Finland to finish to of Group ‘B’ at World Under-18 Hockey Championship
Canada is the No. 1 seed in Group B after beating Finland 3-2. Tyler Benson had the game winner as the Canadians await either Slovakia or Sweden in the quarters.
Canada came into the third with the lead and the momentum, on the heels of a strong second period where the Canadians scored three unanswered goals. Canadian goaltender Evan Cormier made a strong case for himself to start for his team in the playoffs, making some big saves in the second and third period to keep his net clean for the final 40 minutes of the game.
At the other end Veini Vehvilainen also played great in net, making two huge saves with four minutes to go to keep his team alive. But despite their goalie’s efforts the Finns couldn’t produce the tying goal and the game ended with a 3-2 win for the Canadians.
“My favourite term is `When you’re thinking the game you’re not moving your feet, if you move your feet your mind will follow`,” said Team Canada head coach Tim Hunter. “And once we started moving our feet, making plays, driving to the net, putting pucks to the net, playing the Canadian way, it was a big difference for us.”
Team Finland took the physical game to the Canadians early on, getting the lion’s share of scoring chances. The Finns got on the board first as Canadian goalie Evan Cormier gave up a rebound that caused a scramble in front, allowing Aleksi Saarela to jam the puck in from the side of the net.
Then the Finns caught Canada on a two-on-one when Saarela intercepted the puck in his own zone and made a quick breakout pass to Jesse Puljujarvi. Puljujarvi made no mistake on the assist to linemate Patrik Laine, giving Finland the 2-0 lead going into the first intermission.
Canada had an opportunity to get itself back into the game with a 40-second two-man advantage at 11:33. The Finns managed to kill off the first penalty, but Canadian scoring leader Matt Barzal still cut the lead to one after defenceman Thomas Chabot made a great deke to get the puck into the Finnish zone and dish it over to Barzal, who beat Vehvilainen high glove side.
Chabot added a goal of his own after the Finns went once more on the penalty kill, firing a low shot from the high slot through traffic to tie the game 2-2.
Tyler Benson then scored Canada’s third of the period, getting the puck into the zone and outworking Jonne Tammela to the side of the net before pushing it past Vehvilainen for Canada’s first lead of the game.
The victory means that Canada gets the top seed in Group B and a quarter-final matchup against either Sweden or Slovakia, depending on the result of Sweden’s preliminary round finale against Russia. Still, the Finns can take away the fact that they had a very strong preliminary round and could challenge the rest fo the field in the playoff round.
“There were no surprises, I feel that we had a good start to the game, got the lead but didn’t maintain it,” said Puljujarvi. “Considering the three wins we had in the preliminary round, we played well and had a pretty strong game today that could have gone either way, so we’re pretty confident going forward.”