The other night undoubtedly registered a wide range of emotions amongst fans. From the shock at the Russian start; the anger of the Canadian’s undisciplined play; the dismay of a five goal deficit; the elation of a four goal comeback; the heartbreak of a one goal loss and finally to the agony that for the first time in eleven years, we will not be watching Canada play in the Gold medal game.
However, it’s not over just yet for the Canadian Juniors. They can still come out of the tournament with a medal. It may not be Gold, but there is something to be said about the fact that you have to lose the game to get the silver; you have to win the bronze. Canada can still end this tournament on their terms and walk away with their heads held high.
Canada will be without Boone Jenner for the Bronze medal game, not because of the vicious elbow he took from Russian defenseman Idlar Isangulov, but because of what happened after. When Jenner went down after getting hit, his face hit the ice as well. As he lay on the ice, Yevgeni Kuznetsov skated up to him and said something. What he said we will probably never know, but it was enough for Jenner to lose his composure and deliver a spear to the Russian player. It wasn’t much of a shot, but the IIHF is very strict with its rules and the spear got Boone a 1 game suspension.
So here we are.Eeleven forwards and one game left. I expect one of the extra players on defence to be moved up in the empty slot on the fourth line.
Jaden Schwartz – Mark Scheifele – Brendan Gallagher
Jonathan Huberdeau – Ryan Strome – Mark Stone
Quinton Howden – Freddie Hamilton – Brett Connolly
Michael Bournival – – Tanner Pearson
Brandon Gormley – Dougie Hamilton
Scott Harrington – Ryan Murray
Jamie Oleksiak – Nathan Beaulieu
You gotta think that Canada will go with Mark Visentin in this game. Wedgewood has been rocked physically in two straight games, hits that have had an impact near his head and neck. The hit from the Russian looked really painful and it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume the kid is still hurting. Visentin has the second best GAA in the tournament at an even 2.00; he played well in relief of Wedgewood and has something to prove.
Finland finds itself in the Bronze medal game because it couldn’t sustain a lead on Sweden and was limited in opportunity. Not once during the entire game did the Finns enjoy a power play, not even an abbreviated one. It seemed to baffle the team and to say the least, did not go unnoticed, especially by Finnish forward Teemu Pulkkinen.
"It’s amazing that they didn’t get any penalties, I can’t understand that."
With 2:38 left in the game Sweden’s coach, Roger Ronnberg, called a timeout to compose his young team. It worked and Max Friberg scored sending the game into overtime. When the extra period resolved nothing, the two teams headed to the shoot-out. Sebastian Colberg tallied first for the Swedes, only to have Joel Armia counter. Once again Friberg scored to put his team back in the lead. Finland couldn’t find an answer to Gustafsson, and just like they showed against Russia, Sweden had come back to overcome a deficit and win a second straight meaningful game.
Finland has played a very good tournament and they are getting quality play from their top line. Mikael Granlund and Teemu Pulkkinen sit second and third respectively in tournament scoring while Markus Granlund and Joel Armia sit just outside the top 10.
Here’s how the Finns look
Markus Granlund – Mikael Granlund (C) – Teemu Pulkkinen
Joonas Donskoi (A) – Miikka Salomäki – Joel Armia
Miro Aaltonen – Aleksander Barkov – Alexander Ruuttu
Roope Hämäläinen – Otto Paajanen – Mikael Kuronen
Konsta Mäkinen – Jani Hakanpää (A)
Miro Hovinen – Ville Pokka
Rasmus Ristolainen – Simo-Pekka Riikola
Sami Aittokallio leads all goalies in the tournament with a 1.92 GAA, so look for him to get the call for Finland in what is now their most important game. The Finns are going to want all hands on deck for this game. They want the medal and they want to beat Canada just as much as any of the other countries do.
There is no doubt that Finland is going want to come after Canada right off the hop and see if they can duplicate what the Russians did in the semi-final. If they can get a couple on the board quickly, they might feel they can get Canada into a ‘whatever’ mode and take them mentally out of the game. Is it a stretch? Not by any means as Canada will undoubtedly take the ice still wondering what might have been. One has to wonder how much of their attention will be truly on this game.
Regardless of how you feel as to why Canada is in the bronze medal game, be it undisciplined play or taking the Russians lightly resulting in them beating themselves, Canada has shown that they are not a team that gives up. Many teams would have probably been far more apathetic finding themselves down 6-1 to one of the elite countries of hockey, but Canada battled back and damn near pulled off the impossible.
As hard as it is for these kids to do, to push the semi-final out of their heads, it’s also something they are going to have to get used to in their professional careers, so they might as well get started now. Focus on what is next and that’s Finland. If they just go out and play their game, they will be fine, after all this is the same team they beat 8-1 to kick off the tournament.
Canada has shown us that is easier said than done though; they weren’t able to do that against Russia and they paid dearly for it. The Canadians need to maintain composure as well. As I stated above, the Finns didn’t get a single power play against the Swedes and they are going to be licking their chops at the chance to take advantage of an undisciplined rattled Canadian squad.