Eliminated. A word never heard when Canada plays the world junior tournament on Canadian ice.
But that’s what happened on Wednesday.
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.
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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