The Finland-Canada game has been THE game of the tournament to date – entertaining skating, an active crowd, hot goaltenders and two teams that aren’t afraid to get physical. Canada prevailed 5-3, but it was no easy victory that the sellout crowd witnessed.
At stake tonight was an extra couple of rest days, a reward for ending the round robin part of the tournament at the top of Pool B. Winner of this game earned a free pass to the semi-finals.
The crowd of 10, 594 was raucous from the time the Canadians stepped onto the ice. They applauded each check thrown, shot taken, and play made, and earned the distinction of being the ghosts that haunt the Finns.
For the Finns were not looking sure of themselves as they took the ice. They were disorganized and tentative for most of the first five minutes of the game, letting Canada control the pace and creating the better chances. Finland’s Kari Lehtonen faced three hard shots in the first 23 seconds of the period. By contrast, Finland’s first shot on goal came at 6:26 and resulted in a goal by Tomi Maki. At that point, Finland visibly snapped into game mode and started playing like they wanted to win.
Jordin Tootoo was his typical cheerleading self, drawing train whistles and roars of approval from the crowd on every shift. Scottie Upshall, "Captain Canada" was also successful at drawing cheers and general fan noise with his subtly scrappy play.
"It was a great game," said Upshall. "We got up a couple of goals, then stuck with our game plan and it worked for us tonight."
The second period was full of action, starting with two quick goals by Canada in the first three-and-a-half minutes. Finland was not to be outdone, although it took them until 10:06 of the second to score two quick goals, one shorthanded, the second at equal strength just 74 seconds later.
That proved to be the end of David LeNeveu in Canada’s net. Marc-Andre Fleury shook off the stomach flu and replaced LeNeveu, who had let three soft goals go past him.
"I wasn’t feeling 100% this morning at the practice, so it was better for the team to start David today," Fleury admitted. "When there’s 10,000 people cheering for you, I think it’s a big help (stepping on the ice in the middle of a game)."
A huge hit on Daniel Roy at 5:53 of the second saw Finland’s Tomi Maki get five minutes for boarding and a game misconduct. Joffrey Lupul of Canada scored Canada’s fourth goal on that power play. In the third period, Lupul sent Tuomas Immonen sprawling to the ice with a cross-check. As a result, he was penalized five minutes for cross-checking and a game misconduct. Immonen was able to finish the game but he earned a chorus of boos from the fans every time he touched the puck..
The third period saw Team Canada go into shutdown mode. The players controlled the puck, threw huge hits. Canada’s fifth goal--the icing on the brownie--was a short-handed goal scored on a breakaway by Gregory Campbell, his first of the tournament and one of the prettiest as well. "I just tried to battle hard and get a couple of steps on him and I guess it went through the five-hole," he said modestly of his important goal.
Canada Beats Finland 5 - 3
Canada and Finland square off for Pool B bye
With people all over the world ironing out the final few details for their New Year’s Eve plans, the hottest spot in Halifax to usher in a promising year is inside the Metro Centre in Halifax watching Canada’s last game of the round robin portion of the tournament against Finland. Prior to the 2003 IIHF World Junior Championship, most prognosticators picked both Canada and Finland as favorites to win the gold medal, making this matchup between the two an early pick as most anticipated game of the tournament thus far.
For the most part, Canada has fulfilled its expectations, steamrolling Sweden 8-2 and the Czech Republic 4-0, in their first two games. Sunday afternoon, Team Canada took the ice against an 0-2 German team and actually trailed in the game for nearly twenty minutes after an early turnover ended up in the net behind David LeNeveu. Strong physical play aided the Canadians in their comeback, eventually downing Team Germany by a 4-1, and in doing so allowing 10,300 eager spectators to breathe a collective sigh of relief.
An impressive offensive game and a hot goaltender have camouflaged sporadic defensive slipups by Team Canada, slipups that many feel could haunt them come the bigger challenges that loom ahead. For Canadian coach Marc Habscheid, tonight’s game against Finland is the last time mistakes can be tolerated, mistakes he will not be expecting after speaking with his club following the sloppy game against Germany. An important note for Canada is that Marc-Andre Fleury did not practice with the team on Monday because he was apparently suffering from a mild case of the stomach flu.
Finland has had its moments, looking shaky for a good deal of the tournament. After a solid 4-0 victory over Team Germany, the Finns scrambled for a one-goal win against rivals Sweden (3-2) and salvaged a tie against the Czech Republic in a game where they were outshot 35-19. Many feel that in both the game against Sweden and the game against the Czech Republic, Finland was outplayed and owed their win to a good showing from highly-touted goaltender Kari Lehtonen. He can expect to be put to work once again, as Team Canada averaging 43 shots a game to date. Finland’s key to victory on Tuesday night may just be their special teams, and they enter the game tops in the tournament on the power play, with an impressive 37.5% success rate. They are also tied for first in penalty killing and have yet to allow a single power-play marker.
These two teams have met once before, in a pre-competition game on December 23rd, a game that Canada won 6-3. Canada had trailed 3-1 entering the second period before a pair of power-play goals evened the two teams after forty minutes. In the third period, a fatigued Finnish team that dressed only 15 skaters, began to lie down, and Canada capitalized with three unanswered goals.
Tonight’s game should be a beauty. A Canada win or tie gives it first place in Group B and a guaranteed bye in the first leg of the medal round. A Finnish victory would lock up first place for Suomi, dropping Canada to second place.
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André Brin Director, Communications | Directeur, communications