FROM THE POINT
Canada jumped out to a 3-0 lead and hung on down the stretch to defeat IFK Helsinki (Finland) 3-2 on the final day of round-robin play at the 2004 Spengler Cup. Canada must now wait for the conclusion of the late game between Sparta Prag (Czech Republic) and HC Davos (Switzerland) to see whether or not they would qualify for final for the fifth year in a row. Sparta, which has already qualified for the championship game, would have to win the game in order to open the door for Canada.
“We did our part and that’s all we can really do,” said Team Canada veteran Jan Alston. “We had to beat the Finns, that’s all we can control; now we have to hope that the Czech players have some integrity and go out there and play hard and try to win the game. It’s out of our hands. That’s all there is to it.”
Canada got off to a great start against the Finns. Alston went to the net and took a feed from Randy Robitaille and drilled a shot past Finnish netminder Tomas Vokoun to put Canada up 1-0 44 seconds into the game. Vokoun, who normally plays for the Nashville Predators, is playing this season in the Czech league and was picked up for the tournament by IFK Helsinki.
“It was good to beat him early, said Canadian coach Marc Habschied. “We knew he was going to make his share of good stops.”
Ryan Gardner scored Canada’s second goal of the game at 18:03 of the first period with a quick shot from the slot that blew by Vokoun.
“It was nice to get off to a good start,” said Alston. “We haven’t been able to do that so far in the tournament and that gave us a big boost heading into the second period.”
Robitaille scored for Canada early in the second period off a nice feed from Stacey Roest to put Canada up 3-0. From there, things got sloppy. Finland seemed to lull what was a crisp Canadian Team into one that started to take chances and get away from the game plan that had them up with a comfortable lead.
“Maybe we got lulled into sort of a lazy pace by the Finns, that can sometimes happen when you’re playing a team that doesn’t really have anything to play for”, said Alston. “ We just got away from our game.”
Roman Vopat started the comeback for Finland with a shorthanded goal at 10:59 of the second period. That was followed by a goal at 19:44 from Kim Hirschovits that pulled Finland to within one.
The final period featured numerous turnovers from both teams, and both Vokoun and Canada’s Alex Auld had to come up big on numerous occasions. The Finns, with the goalie pulled, pressed up until the dying second of the game as winger Kimmo Kuhta drilled a shot from the right wing at the buzzer that was stopped by Auld.
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Brad Pascall Vice-President, Hockey Operations