HELSINKI, FINLAND – In what was one of the best games you’ll see, Finland comes away with a seesaw 6-5 victory over Canada to advance to the medal round. Here are six takeaway from the matchup.
Tons of Energey, Great Emotion
If you’re a hockey fan and you haven’t seen world juniors hockey in person, it’s an absolute must for your bucket list. The energy and raw emotion of this Canada-Finland game was simply remarkable. The blend of the Canadian and Finnish fans brought a unique atmosphere. This emotion was felt from the stands to the ice, with each ebb and flow of the game. Both the players and fans were completely locked in wearing their emotions on their sleeves. It’s times like these that make it easy to see the beauty in hockey.
Canada Gets Quick Start, Finland Finishes Strong
Travis Konecny broke the scoreless tie 5:21 into the first. About five minutes later, Canada scored again to go up 2-0. Given their subpar preliminary round play, this quick start was so important to the psyche of the team and gave them a foundation to build on for the rest of the game. However, Finland combated this with timely late period goals in all three frames. Trailing by two goals, Finland got on the board with 11 seconds left in the first. Trailing again in the second, Finland scored two goals in the final five minutes to take its first lead. Finally in the third, Finland scored the game-deciding goal on the two-man advantage.
Canada’s Stars Come Out
In spite of having a star-studded lineup, many of Team Canada’s headliners didn’t shine until the quarterfinals. Mitch Marner had two power-play goals, as mentioned Konecny opened up the scoring, Lawson Crouse had a goal and an assist and Dylan Strome had the second tally of the game. Marner in particular was a difference maker, creating a number of chances. Unfortunately for Canada, it was a little too late.
Jake Virtanen Left His Game in Canada
One player who never found his stride was Jake Virtanen. Because of his NHL experience, he was expected to be a big contributor, but was more of a hinderance than anything.
Jake Virtanen is embarrassing himself in these world juniors. Just took two minors in same sequence, tripping then slashing. Shakes head. — Larry Fisher (@LarryFisher_KDC) January 2, 2016
Not only did he muster up a single assist – which didn’t come until the quarterfinals – he also committed several undisciplined penalties. He is one of Canada’s biggest disappointments, if no the biggest.
Neither staring goaltender played well. Finland’s Veini Vehvilainen was pulled midway through the second after letting in his third goal; he also let in a very shaky second goal when he couldn’t corral the puck. Kaapo Kahkonen looked much stronger in relief. It will be interesting to see who gets the nod in the medal round. On the Canadian side, Mackenzie Blackwood needed to have a strong game for Canada to win – he didn’t. He wasn’t terrible, but wasn’t a difference maker either. He also had a few shaky moments.
Patrik Laine Makes A Big Impression
If you don’t know who Patrik Laine is by now, do your homework. He’s cementing himself a spot within the top 10 in this year’s draft. On an ice surface with past first-round picks and players with NHL and AHL experience, he stands out. He’s got a laser for a shot and always finds himself in scoring opportunities. Not to mention his chemistry with fellow top draft prospect Jesse Puljujärvi is off the charts. Together with Sebastian Aho, they form the best line in the entire tournament. It’ll be quite the show to see them go head-to-head with Sweden’s top line.
As an American based in Amsterdam, Joe provides a unique hockey insight, bringing a global perspective to the game. Joe has several years of experience covering the game on both a domestic and international level, including being credentialed for multiple World and World Junior Championships.