Canada 4 - Finland 0
CANADA GOES FOR GOLD AFTER BLANKING FINLAND IN SEMI-FINAL
By Lucas Aykroyd | Box Score
With a hard-working 4-0 semi-final win over Finland, Canada secured its berth in the gold medal game on Thursday, January 5 (4 pm PT, TSN/RDS). Kris Russell, Blake Comeau, Kris Letang, and Andrew Cogliano scored for Canada, while Justin Pogge made 19 saves for the shutout in his fifth straight start.
“We came here to win tonight, and we accomplished that,” said Team Canada Head Coach Brent Sutter. “But we’ve got a lot of work left to do. I want to congratulate Finland. They worked hard.”
“We played two games against Canada, scoring once on the power play, so there is nothing to say,” said Finnish Head Coach Hannu Aravirta. “The better team took the place in the finals. I felt we had chances anyway. We didn’t get the pressure maybe what we expected 5-on-5.
Pogge, who has worn #33 in this tournament like Patrick Roy, continued his excellent play, and is about to do something Roy never accomplished in international hockey: win a medal. The crowd chanted the Calgary Hitmen goalie’s name all night long.
“It’d be huge to repeat what they did last year, and with the team that we have now, I think it’d be a great feeling,” said Pogge about the prospect of winning Canada’s second consecutive World Junior championship.
For the second game in a row, Tuukka Rask was thrown to the wolves, and although the goalie did his best to ward off the Canadian attack with 39 stops, Finland will now face the loser of the Russia-USA semi-final Thursday for bronze (noon PT, TSN/RDS).
“We knew Rask was a very good goalie, but we had to stay with what we needed to do in terms of our game plan,” said Sutter.
As expected, Canada came out with a thunderous physical onslaught, although the Finns proved more resilient early on than in their Boxing Day encounter, a 5-1 Canadian win.
Canada started with the line of Benoit Pouliot, Jonathan Toews, and Michael Blunden, and much like in the tournament opener, Blunden hammered Erkka Leppanen on the first shift, knocking the defenceman’s helmet off. The trend persisted, as Luc Bourdon laid a huge hit on Lauri Tukonen along the boards late in the first period.
The teams had three power play opportunities apiece in the opening 20 minutes, but the first goal came at even strength. At 18:14, Boyd raced down right wing and fed an oncoming Kris Russell, who burst in alone, deked slightly to the left and slid the puck under Rask as the Finnish goalie did the splits.
“That was a very bad goal [for us] at the end of the first period,” said Aravirta.
Early in the second period, the Finns got hemmed in deep in their own zone, and Rask was called for delay of game at 1:41 after smothering the puck way out in the faceoff circle and failing to keep it moving. It became a two-man Canadian advantage for 42 seconds when Leinonen was caught in front of his net, and the host team absolutely stormed the Finnish crease, forcing Rask to make save after save.
Pogge made a huge stop at 14:24 when Wirtanen picked Ryan Parent’s pocket just inside the Canadian blueline, sped around him, and snapped a close-in shot. Parent was called for interference on the play.
With 1:02 remaining in the second period, Blake Comeau went hard to the net, backhanded a Marc Staal rebound off Rask’s pads, and then stuffed in his own rebound to make it 2-0 Canada.
Ryan O’Marra was sent off for high-sticking early in the third, and during the Finnish power play, Pogge had to be sharp to get his pad on a Jesse Joensuu one-timer from the high slot.
After Jari Sailio was penalized for tripping up Boyd, peeling out of the Canadian zone, at 7:47, Jonathan Toews zipped into the faceoff circle to Rask’s right and whipped a shot off the near goal post.
Canada capitalized at 9:40 with seven seconds left in the man advantage, as Kris Letang’s wrister from the right point found its way through traffic, including Leppanen’s skates, and fooled Rask to make it 3-0.
“The third goal, I didn’t see it,” said Rask.
At 13:32 of the third period, Cogliano burst down the right side and cut in to fire a perfect wrister over Rask’s shoulder, rounding out the scoring at 4-0. It was Cogliano’s first of the tournament.
“It was very important,” said Cogliano. “It definitely took the monkey off my back a bit. It was good to get a goal late and it definitely gave me some confidence going into the gold medal game.”
Pogge made all the saves he had to make down the stretch as the Finns pressed around his crease in hopes of shattering his goose egg. The crowd gave the entire team a standing, flag-waving ovation for the final minute of play.
“For a tired team after yesterday’s long battle against Sweden, it was tough to try to come back in the third period,” said Aravirta.
The Players of the Game were Finland’s Tommi Leinonen and Canada’s Marc Staal.
“[Our] guys played good,” said Rask. “No hard feelings. Of course yesterday was a hard game. I can say I was tired, but it didn’t affect the game.”
Now Canada will look forward to the battle for gold.
“Here you have the whole country behind you,” said Comeau. “It’s a good feeling and the atmosphere tonight was special. I think it’s going to be even better in the final.”
“I think we’ll enjoy it for a little bit here, but probably not even the whole night,” added Canadian captain Kyle Chipchura. “We’ve always had the ‘one game at a time.’ Now it’s a little hard not to think about the gold medal.”
“They can say we’re an underdog, but we’re in Canada, we’re on Canadian soil, and being in Canada, no one expects anything but gold,” said Pogge.
With the win, Canada’s all-time record versus Finland at the World Juniors improved to 19 wins, seven losses, and six ties. The previous Canadian shutout versus Finland was 3-0 on December 26, 2003 with Marc-Andre Fleury in goal.
PREVIEW: CANADA - FINLAND
By Greg Alexis
Canada: Team Canada can expect to face a different Finnish team than the one it easily defeated 5-1 on Boxing Day. After Finland’s inspiring 1-0 overtime win over Sweden in the quarter-finals, the blue-and-white squad now has a sense of momentum. The Canadians will need to find some firepower if they want to get to the final and defend their championship title on January 5. Even though Canada was perfect with four wins through the Round Robin, capturing first place in Group A, the 16 goals that Brent Sutter’s team mustered represented the second-lowest total among the six teams that qualified for the Final Round. It would be good if talented forwards like Andrew Cogliano, Daniel Bertram and the little-used Guillaume Latendresse started to find the back of the net, as they have only combined for a total of two points. Canada’s defensive play has been one of its biggest assets. Canada tied the Russians for the fewest goals allowed in Round Robin action (six). Justin Pogge will get the start in goal again, as he has been solid for Canada through the tournament. In the four games, the big Calgary Hitmen netminder has a miniscule 1.50 GAA and a solid .915 save percentage. In terms of World Junior history, Canada has the edge over Finland with a record of 18 wins, seven losses, and six ties.
Finland: Based strictly on the Round Robin, few would have picked the Finns to make it to the semi-finals, as they weren’t exactly playing great hockey. But after an emotional last-minute overtime win against Sweden in the quarter-finals, Finland now has hopes of pulling off another big upset, riding a red-hot goaltender in Tuukka Rask. The Ilves Tampere product looked ordinary in Finland’s opening loss to Canada, but was outstanding versus Sweden, as he stopped all 53 shots he faced for the shutout. If Rask can continue playing at that level, Finland could give the favoured Canadian squad a tough time. Up front, the Finns are capable of scoring goals, as forwards Lauri Tukonen and Perttu Lindgren have combined for 14 points in five games. Canada has some major advantages in addition to the vocal home crowd: Finland will undoubtedly be tired after having less than 24 hours rest after the victory over Tre Kronor, and they may be emotionally exhausted too, given the importance these guys place upon beating their Nordic rivals. But if Rask can come through again, the Finns may find themselves battling it out with Canada to the final buzzer.
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André Brin Director, Communications | Directeur, communications