Game Centre: Canada loses overtime heartbreaker to Finland

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Eliminated. A word never heard when Canada plays the world junior tournament on Canadian ice.

But that’s what happened on Wednesday.

Canada goalie Michael DiPietro, front, lies on the ice as Finland celebrates its overtime victory at the world juniors on Wednesday. Canada is now eliminated from the tournament.
Canada goalie Michael DiPietro, front, lies on the ice as Finland celebrates its overtime victory at the world juniors on Wednesday. Canada is now eliminated from the tournament.  (DARRYL DYCK / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Finland scored with 47 seconds to go in the third period to send the game to overtime, and then defenceman Toni Utunen scored in OT to beat Canada 2-1 in the quarter-finals.

“You don’t plan for things like this, two kind of fluky goals that win a hockey game,” Team Canada coach Tim Hunter told TSN. “We’re all disappointed because we all care. I know it’s here in Canada, but it’s not easy winning this tournament.”

Finland will face Switzerland in Friday’s semifinal.

But that’s it for Canada, who will go medal-less for the first time in the 13 times the country has hosted the tournament for the world’s best junior-aged hockey players.

Ian Mitchell of the University of Denver scored in the second period for Canada. Finland got a lucky bounce to tie the game with 47 seconds to go. Eeli Tolvanen, who had been frustrated all game and all tournament, shovelled the puck at the net, where it bounced off the side of the netting and then bounced off Aleksi Heponiemi’s shin pad past goalie Michael DiPietro to silence the Rogers Arena crowd and force overtime.

“It was one of those bad bounces of the game,” said DiPietro. “Tough one to swallow. Whether it’s a small ounce or a big one doesn’t really matter. We lost.”

Max Comtois failed to score on a penalty shot in the extra frame while defenceman Noah Dobson’s stick broke on a one-timer with the Finland net wide open from his angle. Canada lost possession of the puck as a result, with Utunen the beneficiary.

  • Would-be hero: For the first 59 minutes, DiPietro was the hero.

Fans even chanted “DiPietro” late in the second period after the Canadian goalie made repeated saves to preserve a 1-0 lead. DiPietro, a third-round pick of the Canucks in 2017, was giving Vancouver perhaps fans a taste of what the future might hold.

At the end of the game, his head hanging as he fought back tears, they chanted his name again.

  • The theme: Finland coach Jussi Ahokas played the underdog card, calling Canada the favourite with all the pressure in having to win on home ice. Hunter didn’t mind it at all, saying his players have grown up in an environment that breeds winning hockey.

Canada has won medals the previous 12 times the tournament was held here: Five gold, five silver, two bronze. The last time any team has won back-to-back gold medals was a decade ago, Canada in 2008 and 2009.

The last time Canada failed to make the semifinals was 2016, losing to Finland in Finland.

  • The game: The first period was scoreless as Finland outshot Canada 11-7. The Canadians seemed nervous, as if they felt the pressure of the moment, early in the game. They dropped sticks and flubbed passes, creating easy turnovers for Finland. But the Finns have struggled offensively in the tournament, and DiPietro did the rest.

Ian Mitchell got the only goal of the second period. Morgan Frost started the play in the neutral zone with a steal and spin pass to Barrett Hayton to set up Mitchell, who joined the rush. But again, Finland outshot Canada 12-8 and DiPietro had to make a number of saves, with Nashville prospect Tolvanen his favourite victim.

Two team Finland fans cheer amid a stadium full of shocked team Canada fans after the Finns scored a killer goal in overtime to knock Canada out of the hockey World Junior Championships in Vancouver, B.C.
Two team Finland fans cheer amid a stadium full of shocked team Canada fans after the Finns scored a killer goal in overtime to knock Canada out of the hockey World Junior Championships in Vancouver, B.C.  (Jesse Winter/ StarMetro)

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  • Trends: Canada scored the first goal for the fifth game in a row at the tournament. The first four had come early in the first period. This one case early in the second after a scoreless first period … Canada’s power play, three-for-15 coming in good for seventh in the tournament, did not score in three chances …Canada’s penalty kill, which allowed three goals on 13 shots coming in to be rated fifth, did not allow a goal on two chances.
  • Juggled lines: With Canada struggling a bit offensively against Russia, Hunter juggled his lines coming into the game with right wingers Nick Suzuki and Brett Leason switching lines.
  • End of the line: Maple Leafs prospect Rasmus Sandin and Team Sweden suffered an early exit from the tournament, losing 2-0 to Switzerland. The last time Sweden didn’t score a goal in a world junior game was Dec. 26, 2006, against Canada. Sandin finished the tournament with two goals.

Since 2008, the Swedes are 48-0 in the preliminary round, but 13-15 in medal round games in that time.

Kevin McGran is a sports reporter based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @kevin_mcgran

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Canada vs. Finland: 5 keys to a quarter-final victory

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Fresh off Monday’s 2-1 setback to Russia — its toughest test at this year’s world junior hockey championship — Team Canada’s potential path to the gold-medal game doesn’t get any easier, starting Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. ET.

The 3-1-0 Canadians face elimination against Finland, which defeated the former 5-2 in pre-tournament action in Vancouver on Dec. 23 and went 2-2 in the preliminary round. Three years ago, the host Finns also downed Canada 6-5 in the quarter-finals.

« We’re going to come out hard, » Canada forward Morgan Frost, who with seven points shares the tournament scoring lead with American Ryan Poehling, told reporters. « We want revenge against them. I don’t think you’ve seen our best yet. »

Here are 5 keys to a Canadian victory at Rogers Arena:

Tippett’s lethal weapon

Possessing an NHL-level shot, Owen Tippett has had scoring chances of late but hasn’t found the back of the net for Canada since the second period of its tournament-opening 14-0 drubbing of Denmark, which was shut out in each of its four round-robin games.

A return to form by the 2017 Florida Panthers draft pick — he has 19 goals and 33 points in 23 games for the OHL’s Mississauga Steelheads this season — would make Canada’s top forward line of Cody Glass between captain Max Comtois and Tippett even more potent.

More of the same from Mikey

Michael DiPietro, who stood out versus Russia with a 29-save performance, has turned aside 66 of 69 shots for a .957 save percentage in three games, one year after being a late cut at Canada’s selection camp.

Canada’s Michael DiPietro raised his save percentage at the 2019 world juniors to .957 with a 29-save performance against Russia on Monday night. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Tops in the Ontario Hockey League this season with a 2.20 goals-against average, DiPietro stopped 13 of 15 shots in the pre-tourney loss to Finland.

« He’s our rock back there. He’s always calm in high-pressure situations, » says Canadian left-winger Jaret Anderson-Dolan.

Special teams

Canada’s power-play and penalty-kill units continue to be a work in progress. Finland scored two power-play goals and a pair shorthanded tallies on Dec. 23, while the Canadians failed to convert three chances when up a man against Russia.

Canada ranks seventh among the eight quarter-final teams with a 20 per success rate with the man-advantage and fifth on the penalty kill (76.92 per cent).

Secondary scoring

Much of Canada’s goal production since its tournament opener has come from the top forward line of captain Max Comtois, Cody Glass and Owen Tippett, along with MacKenzie Entwistle.

Morgan Frost has yet to notch an even-strength goal since his hat trick against Denmark while Jaret Anderson-Dolan and 17-year-old Alexis Lafreniere have one goal for the tournament.

Canadian forward Morgan Frost, pictured here scoring one of his three goals versus Denmark on Dec. 26, is due for another outburst in Vancouver. (Rich Lam/Getty Images)

Ontario Hockey League standouts Barrett Hayton (15 goals in 20 games for Sault Ste. Marie) and Nick Suzuki (20 goals in 28 contests) for Owen Sound have yet to score at this year’s world juniors. Noah Dobson is the lone Canadian defenceman to find the back of the net.

Opening the scoring

Canada has scored the first goal in each of its four games at this year’s world juniors and won three times.

In the last seven meetings between Canada and Finland, the team that scored first prevailed six times. On Jan. 2, 2016, the Canadians scored first in Helsinki and dropped a 6-5 decision.

Recent Canada-Finland matchups

  • Dec. 26, 2017, Buffalo: Canada 4, Finland 2 (Taylor Raddysh, two points)
  • Jan. 2, 2016, Helsinki: Finland 6, Canada 5 (Mitch Marner, two goals; Brayden Point, two points)​
  • Dec. 29, 2014, Montreal: Canada 4, Finland 1 (Sam Reinhart, two goals)
  • Jan. 4, 2014, Sweden: Finland 5, Canada 1
  • Jan. 5, 2012, Calgary: Canada 4, Finland 0 (Quinton Howden, two goals)​
  • Dec. 26, 2011, Edmonton: Canada 8, Finland 1 (Jonathan Huberdeau, goal and five points; Mark Stone, three goals)

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