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Finland defeats Canada, will play Sweden for gold

by Adam Kimelman

Finland scored three times in the second period en route to a 5-1 victory against Canada on Saturday at Malmo Arena in the semifinals of the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship.

Finland will face Sweden in the gold-medal game Sunday (1 p.m. ET, NHLN-US). It's the first time Finland will play for the gold since losing to the Czech Republic in the 2001 championship game.

Finland last won WJC gold in 1998.

"It's a dream final for us, Finland and Sweden," Finland forward Henri Ikonen told the IIHF website. "It's a great rivalry. Young players like ourselves can't imagine a better situation than that. Hopefully I can sleep well [Saturday]."

It's a big comeback for Finland, which finished seventh at the 2013 WJC and hasn't won a medal since taking the bronze in 2006.

Captain Teuvo Teravainen had two goals and an assist, Joni Nikko, Artturi Lehkonen and Rasmus Ristolainen each scored, and Juuse Saros made 22 saves.

Jonathan Drouin scored for Canada and goaltender Zachary Fucale stopped 18 of 22 shots.

Canada will play Sunday (9 a.m. ET, NHLN-US) in the bronze-medal game against Russia for the second straight year. Russia beat Canada 6-5 in overtime in the third-place game at the 2013 World Juniors in Ufa, Russia, snapping Canada's 15-year streak of winning a medal at the WJC.

"It’s like we froze in the moment," Canada coach Brent Sutter said on TSN. "We didn’t execute. Everything we did was not what we wanted to do. A lot of things didn’t go the way we wanted them to go. ... We didn’t play with any intelligence here. We talked, we knew things they wanted do and we needed to counter that and do things a certain way and we didn’t execute. Seemed like we were fighting everything all night."

After a scoreless first period, two top prospects for the 2014 NHL Draft combined to open the scoring for Finland 4:19 into the second. Defenseman Julius Honka, who plays for the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League and earned an A rating from NHL Central Scouting in its December listing of players to watch for the 2014 draft, dumped the puck into the Canada end where it took a strange bounce off the boards behind the Canadian net. The puck kicked in front where Joni Nikko, a C-rated player for the 2014 draft, banged it past Fucale before the Canadian goalie could locate the puck.

Just 1:51 later Lehkonen, a Montreal Canadiens prospect, scored a power-play goal to make it 2-0. With Fredrik Gauthier in the penalty box for interference, Finland worked the puck around the Canadian zone, with Lehkonen sending it from behind the net to Teravainen in the right circle. Teravainen, a Chicago Blackhawks draft pick, fired a shot that went off the stick of teammate Saku Maenalanen in the slot and off Fucale. The rebound dropped in front and Lehkonen, who had circled behind the net, came in front and scored at 6:10.

"They played a better hockey game than we did," Fucale, a Canadiens prospect, told TSN. "We got beat.

"The bounces go back and forth and the game was fair. Finland worked really hard and they beat us."

Canada got on the board after strong penalty killing work after Fucale was whistled for tripping Teravainen when he reached to poke check the Finnish captain and instead took his skates out.

Moments after the penalty ended, Anthony Mantha (Detroit Red Wings) intercepted a Ville Pokka clearing attempt in the Finland zone. He dropped a pass for Curtis Lazar (Ottawa Senators), who took it around the Finland goal and was stopped on a wraparound attempt. Drouin jumped into the play, found the loose puck and scored at 11:24.

Finland took back the momentum when Ristolainen scored at 15:36. The defenseman, who started the season with the Buffalo Sabres, pinched down to the left circle, made a move to create space for himself, and beat Fucale over the goaltender's right shoulder and just under the crossbar.

Canada had to play most of the second period without second-line center Nicolas Petan, who was assessed a 10-minute major penalty for abuse of officials at 7:17. Drouin also had to serve a 10-minute major, for a check to the head, assessed at 12:03.

"They got a break on that first goal and it seemed to compound after that," Sutter said. "We took a penalty shortly after and they got a power-play goal, then we got a goal to get ourselves back into it, then shortly after that we took a penalty. Then we got frustrated and we started taking penalties again, guys getting 10-minute misconducts. We got off our game. We didn’t handle it the way we wanted to."

Drouin, the Tampa Bay Lightning prospect who is second on Canada with nine points, was more succinct in his opinion of the game.

"We didn’t play our game," he said on TSN. "They deserved to win. They won every battle."

The Canadians had a chance to get back into the game early in the third period, which they started with 1:19 of power-play time following a late whistle on Finland's Aleksei Mustonen for holding. Canada then had another power play when Finland's Miko Lehtonen was called for holding at 4:08. However, Canada went 0-for-5 with seven shots on its power play.

Finland iced the game on Teravainen's first goal of the tournament when he scored on a penalty shot at 16:48. Finland's Henrik Haapala was pulled down on a breakaway by Canada's Derrick Pouliot (Pittsburgh Penguins) and injured his hand on the play. That allowed Finland coach Karri Kivi to select a different shooter, and he opted for Teravainen, who entered the game with a team-high nine points, all assists. He carried the puck in with speed, cut to his right and lifted a backhand past an outstretched Fucale.

Teravainen added an empty-net goal with 49 seconds remaining to close the scoring.

After the game, Teravainen was named one of Finland’s three best players at the tournament, along with Saros and defenseman Ville Pokka (New York Islanders).

Saros, a Nashville Predators prospect, goes into the gold-medal game leading the tournament with a 1.53 goals-against average and .942 save percentage; in five games he’s allowed seven goals on 114 shots.

Pouliot, Lazar and Mantha were voted Canada’s three best players. Mantha goes into the final day of the tournament tied with Sweden’s Filip Forsberg for the tournament scoring lead with 12 points.

However, that doesn’t make up for the fact that the 2014 WJC will be the fifth straight for Canada without a gold medal. The focus has to shift quickly now to winning the bronze, something they couldn’t do last year against Russia.

"The guys are down right now but we'll be ready for [Sunday]," defenseman Griffin Reinhart, who was part of last year’s Canadian team, told the IIHF website. "We're not doing it just for ourselves but for our country and all the fans who get up [Sunday] and watch."

"We still have an opportunity to come away from here with a medal," Sutter said. "In this tournament that’s an accomplishment in itself because it is a tough tournament."


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