CANADA WHITE COMES BACK IN THIRD TO BEAT FINNS IN U17 QUARTERS
JASON LA ROSE
FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – James Hamblin (Edmonton, Alta./Medicine Hat, WHL) scored twice in the third period to spark Canada White to a come-from-behind 4-2 win over Finland in a Thursday night quarter-final at the 2015 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
The win sends White back to Dawson Creek, where it will meet Sweden in Friday’s semifinals (7 p.m. MT).
Gabe Vilardi (Kingston, Ont./Windsor, OHL) added the game-winning goal with just over seven minutes left, and Owen Tippett (Peterborough, Ont./Mississauga, OHL) also scored for White.
It didn’t take long to get the crowd at North Peace Arena into the game; Tippett picked up a loose puck and wired a wrist shot over the short-side shoulder of Finnish netminder Lassi Lehtinen just 4:05 in.
The Finns responded early in the second period when Kristian Vesalainen blocked an Elijah Roberts (Brampton, Ont./Kitchener, OHL) shot at the Finnish blue-line and took off on a two-on-one, feeding tournament leading scorer Eeli Tolvanen for the tying goal at 3:51.
Vesalainen did the scoring himself to give Finland its first lead 12 minutes into the middle frame, spinning in the slot and slipping a shot past Canadian goaltender Ian Scott on a Finnish power play.
White continued to pepper Lehtinen with shots through the second and third periods, racking up 24 in the final 40 minutes – and 34 overall – but it took a pair of late power plays to turn the tide.
Hamblin brought the Canadians even at 9:25 of the third, redirecting a point shot from Tippett with the man advantage, and Vilardi picked up his own rebound and snuck a backhand past Lehtinen on another power play to put White ahead for good.
The Canadian captain jumped on a turnover in the neutral zone and found the empty net with 1:15 left.
The loss means Finland will stay in Fort St. John and take on the powerhouse United States, which was shocked by Sweden in its quarter-final, in Friday’s fifth-place game (1:30 p.m. MT).