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World Championship

Worlds: Finland seeks perfect ending vs. Canada

Can make history with win in gold-medal game against defending champion

by Carol Schram / Correspondent

MOSCOW -- Unbeaten Finland will look to become the first team to win gold at the World Under-18, World Juniors and World Championship in the same year when it faces defending champion Canada in the gold-medal game of the 2016 IIHF World Championship on Sunday (12:45 p.m. ET).

Finland (9-0) is tied for second with 37 goals and has allowed a tournament-low eight goals. Finland is also the only team to defeat Canada (8-1) in the tournament, winning 4-0 on Tuesday in the final game of the round-robin preliminary round.

"We have a big opportunity to win a second gold," said Finland forward Sebastian Aho, who scored two power-play goals in Finland's 3-1 win against Russia in the semifinals Saturday. Canada defeated the United States 4-3.

Aho, the Carolina Hurricanes prospect who finished second in scoring on Finland at January's World Junior Championship, has three goals and seven points in the tournament.

His World Juniors teammate, Patrik Laine, added his 12th point Saturday, tying him with his teammate Mikael Granlund and Russia's Artemi Panarin (Chicago Blackhawks) for second. 

Laine's second-period assist came on a pinpoint pass out of the corner to linemate Jussi Jokinen (Florida Panthers), who was alone at the side of the Russian net. 

"I didn't see anybody at the back door," Laine said. "Jussi was there and NHL players finish. That's all."

"It's amazing," goaltender Mikko Koskinen said of the contributions Finland has gotten this year from Aho and Laine, both 18. "They're such young guys and they're playing at this level. Not, like, once in a while -- they're playing every game like that. It's unreal to see that."

Koskinen has a 1.14 goals-against average and .941 save percentage, slightly better than the numbers put up by Canada goalie Cam Talbot (1.43, .934), who is looking at the game Sunday as "a bit of a redemption game for (the team) and myself.

"I didn't have my best game against them," Talbot, the Edmonton Oilers goalie, said of last week's game against Finland. "I'll be looking to play a better game tomorrow and to give us a chance to win. I know that we're going to have our hands full against a very good team. They play so well structurally, so we're going to have to do a good job of getting pucks in behind them and really trying to break down their forecheck."

Talbot isn't the only Canada player with extra motivation for Sunday.

"We wanted them," Colorado Avalanche forward Matt Duchene said of Finland. "We have some unfinished business with them. If we beat them it's going to be very sweet."

Defenseman Ryan Ellis, who joined Canada a week ago after his Nashville Predators were eliminated in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, continued to provide a boost, scoring the game-winner Saturday.

"He came in and hasn't disappointed," said Canada defenseman Morgan Rielly (Toronto Maple Leafs). "He's been playing his game: skates well, makes a good first pass, obviously has a great shot. He was huge for us tonight. When we need him [Sunday] night he'll be there for us again."

Even though the Finns are unbeaten, Canada coach Bill Peters said it was "calming" to be facing them instead of Russia in the gold-medal game.

"We've seen Finland," Peters said. "We were in the same pool over in St. Petersburg so I've seen them three times and played them once. Now, we have head-to-head video clips that we'll use for our preparation for tomorrow. We'll look at some Finland video vs. Russia, touch up on our game tomorrow and be ready to play."

If the Canadians win on Sunday, they'll have won back-to-back World Championship gold for the first time since 2003 and 2004. A victory for the Finns would give them their first gold since 2011.

It would also continue their cycle of international hockey dominance in the first half of 2016. After such strong performances, Finland figures to be among the favorites to win the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, which will run from Sept. 17 to Oct. 1 in Toronto.

"It's an amazing thing," Aho said of his country's success on the world stage this year. "It's great to see that things are good in Finland in hockey."

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