CANADA’S BOYD FINISHES OFF FINNS IN TOURNAMENT OPENER
By Lucas Aykroyd | Box Score | Game Photos |
On a day when Canadian shoppers go hunting for bargains, Team Canada fans were clearly sold on what the 2005 World Junior edition has to offer.
Dustin Boyd led the way with two goals as Canada defeated Finland 5-1 in the Boxing Day tournament opener in front of 16,083 fans at Vancouver’s Pacific Coliseum, many sporting red-and-white jerseys.
Blake Comeau added a goal and an assist and Andrew Cogliano had two helpers, while David Bolland and Kyle Chipchura also scored for the host team. Canada’s power play clicked nicely, going 2-for-8 on the night.
“We had to play to our identity,” said Sutter. “In our past history with these two countries, when we play each other it’s a pretty North American-styled game. The Finns play hard. We knew that we would have to match that and go beyond that.”
Finland’s Aki Seitsonen, who plays for the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders, had the only goal for the visitors.
“We knew Canada would capitalize on those PP calls, like they did during their exhibition games,” said Seitsonen. “It’s unacceptable for us.”
“We just have to play better,” said Finland’s Lauri Korpikoski. “We need to help [our goalie] more.”
Justin Pogge made 16 saves for the victory, while Finland’s Tuukka Rask had 26 stops. Both goalies are draft picks of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“It’s nice to get a win over a guy picked in the first round,” said Pogge. “But I mean, he’s a great goalie and he played pretty well tonight.”
It was a solid, physical game for the entire Canadian roster, while the Finns’ confidence seemed to deflate with each Canadian goal.
“Team Canada played a very well organized game, in all the parts of ice hockey: five on five, defence, offence, power play,” said Finnish Head Coach Hannu Aravirta.
“It was a hard game for me,” said Rask. “They made some good passes to stretch me out and they came with speed.”
Just the way Canadian Head Coach Brent Sutter likes, his team came out hitting. Michael Blunden laid a huge bodycheck deep in the Finnish end but was called for elbowing at 22 seconds, much to the crowd’s displeasure.
After the Canadians killed off the penalty, they were unable to capitalize on a 3-on-1 rush. Although Rask was caught out of position, Kris Russell backhanded a shot high and wide of the gaping Finnish cage.
Finnish defenceman Tommi Leinonen took two straight minors in the first period, including a tripping call on Comeau at 8:32, and the Finns paid the price. From behind the Finnish goal line, Steve Downie sent a neat centering pass to Boyd parked in front, and the product of the Moose Jaw Warriors flipped a shot past Rask’s right pad at 10:23 to make it 1-0 Canada.
The ice seemed rough and bumpy at times, and that had an effect. At 15:52, Canada went up 2-0 when Blake Comeau pounced on an unexpected loose puck just inside the Finnish blueline and raced in alone on Rask. The Canadian forward’s shot flipped up and over the goalie, and just landed inside the goal line.
“It was a great chip by [Ryan] O’Marra and I looked up and I had a breakaway,” added Comeau. “[Rask] kind of cuffed me when he put up the pad stack but lucky enough it hit the post and went in.”
Early in the second period, Dustin Boyd capitalized on a Timo Seppanen miscue at the offensive blueline and zoomed in alone on Rask, who stumbled and barely stopped Boyd’s attempt. Teemu Laakso was called for slashing on the play, and Canada took advantage on the power play less than two minutes later. David Bolland’s long shot bounced over the glove of Rask, who was sliding around haphazardly, and the puck trickled in, giving Canada a 3-0 lead at 3:17 of the middle frame.
Finland was virtually unable to generate offensive chances for most of the second period.
At 14:24, Russell put a shot through Rask that rebounded off the goalie’s left post, and Boyd was there, lunging for the loose puck and putting it high into the net to make it 4-0.
At 2:45 of the third period, Pouliot was sent off for roughing, and Laakso put a shot from the blueline off the crossbar on the power play. Just over six minutes later, the Finns finally capitalized with the man advantage. Seitsonen stepped into a low slapper from the blueline that whizzed past a screened Pogge’s left skate and finally got Finland on the board.
But that was as close as the Finns would get. With 5:57 remaining in the third period, Chipchura picked up the rebound off a spectacular Andrew Cogliano rush and deftly deposited it past Rask to round out the scoring.
Final shots favoured Canada 31-17.
The Player of the Game for Canada was Dustin Boyd, while Aki Seitsonen was honoured for Finland.
Canada stretched its winning streak at the IIHF World Junior Championships versus Finland to four straight games dating back to the 2003 tournament. Canada has not lost a game in World Junior competition since a 4-3 defeat versus the USA in the 2004 gold medal game.
The Canadian anthem was heard twice at this game, sung before the first drop of the puck and played afterwards in honour of the Maple Leaf victory.
Canada’s next game is Wednesday, December 28 versus Switzerland (16:00), while Finland takes on the USA that day (20:00).
“The tournament goes on and we will learn from our mistakes,” said Aravirta. “I’m sure we will be more ready against the USA on Wednesday.”
PREVIEW: FINLAND VERSUS CANADA
By Lucas Aykroyd
Finland: The Finns lost 8-1 to Canada last year, but with several returning players, they'll be looking to keep the score much closer this time. Weathering the first ten minutes will be essential, and usually Finnish teams come out strong. Hannu Aravirta will need his players to be mentally tough amid the incredible ovation that is sure to greet Team Canada. The veteran coach vividly recalls how Finland built a 5-1 lead in Helsinki versus Sweden in the 2003 IIHF World Championship quarter-finals, but then lost 6-5. That’s because he was behind the bench for that game. So if a team featuring Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne can stumble that badly, anything is possible for a squad of junior-aged players. Returning power forwards Lauri Tukonen and Jesse Joensuu will need to give as good as they take in the physical department against Canada, showing their teammates that they will not be intimidated. Scoring, though, will have to be by committee, as the Finns don’t have an Evgeni Malkin or Phil Kessel on their roster. Defenceman Teemu Laakso plays for IFK Helsinki, and the 6-0, 195-pounder must demonstrate why that club has the reputation of being the most physical in the Finnish Elite League. But ultimately, it may come down to how Tuukka Rask plays in goal (if, as widely anticipated, he gets the start over Karri Ramo). Will the Savonlinna-born keeper stand on his head as Canada unloads a barrage of rubber in his direction, or will he allow a few softies, causing Toronto Maple Leaf scouts to bow their heads in dismay? The Finns are good enough to cause Canada some serious difficulty if their goaltending is up to snuff.
Canada: The last time the IIHF World Junior Championship was held in Canada, the host squad also played its opener versus a Scandinavian rival. But against Finland on Boxing Day, Brent Sutter’s troops will be hard-pressed to replicate the 8-2 beating Canada laid on Sweden in Halifax on December 26, 2002. Justin Pogge of the Calgary Hitmen will get the start in goal for Canada after delivering a solid performance during the Selection Camp and stopping 27 of 28 saves in an 8-1 exhibition win over Russia on December 22. In terms of defence, the existing chemistry between teammates Cam Barker and Kris Russell of Medicine Hat and Luc Bourdon and Kristopher Letang of Val-D'Or could prove important at this early stage, as good communication will be essential to handle the physical Finnish forwards and limit turnovers down low. Up front, if Coach Sutter keeps together the line of Guillaume Latendresse, Dustin Boyd, and Blake Comeau, that could help generate some valuable offence, as Boyd chipped in two goals against Russia. Jonathan Toews and Andrew Cogliano have both proven to be offensive sparkplugs over the last two weeks, and rest assured that captain Kyle Chipchura and Steve Downie will come out with an assertive physical two-way game. If Canada gets off to a fast start, the Finns could be in big trouble.