Gold for Team Canada after 3-2 overtime win over Finland

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EDMONTON –

It took until the latter stages of Saturday’s gold medal game, but Canada finally faced adversity at the World Junior Hockey Championships.

After blowing a two-goal lead for the Finns, Kent Johnson came to the rescue. At 3:20 of overtime, Johnson rebounded his own shot to give Canada a 3-2 victory and the gold medal.

Going into the third, Canada led 2-0, but the Finns roared to tie the game in front of 13,327 fans at Rogers Place. After conceding just 13 shots in the first two periods, the Finns took 17 shots into the net in the third and earned goals from Aleksi Heimosalmi and Joakim Kemell to send the game into extra time.

The Canadians had plenty of chances to bury the Finns, but went 0-for-6 on the power play in regulation.

Canada also conceded goals from Joshua Roy and William Dufour. With two assists in the match, Mason McTavish finished as the tournament’s top scorer with eight goals and nine assists. He was named MVP of the tournament.

But McTavish’s finest moment might not have been a goal or an assist, but rather clearing what appeared to be a Topi Niemela tournament-winning effort off the goal line just seconds before Johnson scored the decisive goal.

From the group stage to the knockout round, Canada’s smallest margin of victory was three. But the gold medal match against Finland marked a new kind of challenge for the Canadians, as the opposition went into a defensive shell from kick-off.

The Finns clogged up the middle of the ice and broke the flow of the game. As Canada established control of the puck on the Finnish wing, four of the five Finnish skaters collapsed in front of their own goal, acting as a block for goalkeeper Juha Jatkola. From above, it looked like the Finns were playing with just one striker and four defenders.

But Canada broke the Finnish blockade at 11:18 on the first. McTavish came out from behind the Finnish goal, his shot was saved by Jatkola, but the rebound fell to Joshua Roy, who did not miss.

At 12:05, Finn Kalle Vaisanen finally recorded his team’s first shot on goal.

Canada didn’t allow the Finns a chance to stop them in the second. Just 41 seconds into the period, a wrist strike from Dufour beat Jatkola.

Canadian forward Kent Johnson had a chance to put his team up by three near the middle of the period, but was denied by Jatkola on the breakaway opportunity.

Perhaps the lack of performance by the Finns (just 13 shots) in the first two periods lulled Canada to sleep. They came out with more offensive determination in the final period and halved the Canadian lead at 4:09. Heimosalmi’s point shot floated through traffic and sailed over the shoulder of Canadian goalkeeper Dylan Garand.

At 10:46, the Finns got the equalizer, with Kemell scoring a perfect pass from Topi Niemela.

Canada outscored the Finns 33-31.

Where does this Canadian performance rank in world youth history? Before the final, the closest anyone came to making the Canadians sweat in this tournament was Switzerland, who came within 5-3 of the Canadians in the quarterfinals, a game the Canadians would go on to win by a count of 6- 3.

Canada won all four of its Group A games with a total score of 27-7.

But in 2005, Canada’s most powerful youth team, with the likes of Sidney Crosby, Patrice Bergeron, Ryan Getzlaf, Brent Seabrook and Corey Perry, went 4-0-0 in the group stage, scoring 32 goals and gave up only five. The Canadians beat the Czechs 3-1 in the semi-final and triumphed over Russia 6-1 in the final.

While the junior worlds have been plagued by poor attendance, the gold medal game featured the largest and most spirited crowd of the event. For the only time in the tournament, seats were opened for fans in the upper bowl at Rogers Place.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 19, 2022.

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