Day: August 20, 2022

Canada claims summertime gold in OT

Team Canada players celebrate a goal in the 3-2 gold-medal game win against Finland.

By  Andrew Podnieks –

Kent Johnson knocked in a loose puck at 3:20 of overtime to give Canada a 3-2 win over Finland and take the gold medal at the 2022 World Junior Championship. It capped the wildest three-on-three imaginable, one that included great saves by both goalies. But the biggest save came from Canada’s captain, tournament MVP, and leading scorer, Mason McTavish, who swept a puck off his goal line to keep play alive and allow Johnson to score soon after.

Logan Stankoven toe-dragged the puck in front of the Finnish goal and was stoned by Juha Jatkola, but the puck bounced free and Johnson smacked it in, sending the raucous crowd of 13,327 into a frenzy. Finland had taken the game to overtime by rallying from 2-0 down with two goals in the third.

Yes, World Junior fans, it felt like Christmas!

Canada finished the tournament with a perfect record, seven wins without a loss, including an earlier 6-3 win over the Finns during the preliminary round. They have now won their record 19th all-time gold medals at the World Juniors. The win also marks the 15th time in 16 hostings that Canada has earned a medal, the lone exception coming in 2019. For Finland, they take silver, their fifth U20 medal since 2014.

The win is especially sweet for coach Dave Cameron, who was behind the bench in 2011 when Canada lost a 5-3 heart-breaker in the gold-medal game that year against Russia after leading 3-0 after two periods.

Dylan Garand was the winning goalie and finished the tournament with a 6-0 record. McTavish led all players in the game with 26:50 of ice time, including 1:55 of the 3:20 in the OT.

At the other end, Juha Jatkola was sensational in the Finnish goal, the only reason the game went to an extra session.

Backed by the biggest, loudest, and most raucous crowd of the tournament, Canada came out guns a-blazin’, getting the puck deep, hitting every white sweater in sight, and getting pucks on the net. All Finland could do was withstand the barrage and hope it wouldn’t last 60 minutes. Wave after wave attacked Juha Jatkola’s net, and he made some fine saves while his nervous mates tried to adjust.

But before they did, Canada took the lead thanks to McTavish. He drove around the goal and fired a quick shot. Jatkola made the save, but the puck dropped at the feet of Joshua Roy, and he smacked it in before defender Aleksi Heimosalmi could check him.

That goal came at 11:18, by which time Finland had yet to register a shot on goal. They finally did half a minute later, but soon after that, the McTavish-Roy combination almost clicked again. This time the captain fired a pass from the corner to Roy alone in front, but Jatkola made the save on the deke.

Finland skated their way into the game and got a few pucks on Dylan Garand, the most dangerous off the stick of Roni Hirvonen, but the goalie was perfectly positioned to take the shot to the midsection.

Finland had every right to feel pretty good heading to the dressing room, down a single goal in a period it was overwhelmed, but Canada reversed their opponenets’ happy feelings quickly in the middle period. Coming in on the rush, William Dufur fired a bullet past Jatkola just 41 seconds after the faceoff to make it 2-0. 

That set off a series of chances both ways. Kasper Simontaival made an expert tip of a Joel Mattaa shot, but Garand stuck out the right pad just in time for the beautiful save. Johnson then had a long breakaway but was stoned by Jatkola.

Canada then had a whopping five power plays intermittently created by their intensity and pressure in the Finland end. They had plenty of possession and some good chances, but although they didn’t add to their lead virtually the rest of the period passed in the Finland end again as a result. 

That failure to score with all those power plays became a problem early in the third when the Finns got their first goal of the night. It started when Dufour lost his stick and went off on a change, leaving Canada down a skater for a precious couple of seconds. Heimosalmi got the puck and fired a quick shot through traffic that beat Garand at 4:09 and changed the complexion of the game entirely.

The Finns nearly tied the game seconds later, but Garand made a fine stop on Sami Helenius, and then Tyson Foerster had an empty net only to shoot into Jatkola’s glove, the best save of the night by far. Finland responded with dominating play that eventually resulted in the tying goal. 

They were relentless in the Canada end, just as the hosts were in the opening period, and tied the game after more pressure induced a turnover. Topi Niemela spotted Joakim Kemell to the back side and fired a pass across, and Kemell wired a one-timer in to make it 2-2 at 10:46.

Canada acquired a sixth power play, but before much happened it incurred its first penalty of the night to negate the advantage. And then Finland got another penalty that went to video review. In the end, it all went for naught and teams headed to the dressing room for a full intermission before playing 20 minutes of three-on-three unlimited overtime.

It didn’t last long, but every second was thrilling. Junior hockey might not be a summer sport on a reguar basis, but for one night, well, it was a dream.

Sweden defeats Czechia in bronze game

Sweden celebrates the bronze medal win after beating Czechie 3-1 at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship in Edmonton.

By Lucas Aykroyd

Buoyed by goalie Jesper Wallstedt’s 27-save performance, Sweden beat Czechia 3-1 to win the bronze medal at the 2022 IIHF World Junior Championship in Edmonton on Saturday.

Fabian Lysell, Isak Rosen, and Linus Sjodin scored for Sweden.

The Swedes earned Tomas Monten another medal in his final outing behind their World Junior bench. As a head coach, Monten, 44, also won the 2018 silver medal and 2020 bronze medal. Sweden previously captured World Junior bronze in 1979, 1980, 1987, 1995, 2010, and 2020.

“It was a tough loss yesterday,” said Swedish captain Emil Andrae of falling 1-0 to Finland in the semi-final. “We had to re-group and come together and we talked about having a responsibility to our country. Of course, it was for Tomas Monten, too. It was his last game. We had to do it for him. He’s had six years of grinding, so I’m happy to get a bronze medal for him. He’s a good coach. That’s what this last game was all about.”

Michal Gut replied for Czechia.

To be going home emptyhanded is a genuine disappointment for the Czechs. Everything came together for them when they ended the U.S.’s reign as World Junior champions with a 4-2 quarter-final shocker. However, the host Canadians overpowered coach Radim Rulik’s boys 5-2 in the semi-finals. The Czechs just didn’t have enough left in their tank to top Sweden.

“It wasn’t hard to get up for the game,” Gut said. “We were playing for a medal. It doesn’t matter if it was gold or silver or bronze. We haven’t won a medal for 17 years, so we wanted anything. We were ready to play today.”

Both teams opted for the starting netminders that carried them into the medal round, and Wallstedt more than held down the fort versus Tomas Suchanek. Final shots favoured Czechia 28-23.

“For me, it’s my last junior game, so I also wanted to finish with a medal,” Wallstedt said. “We wanted gold, but bronze is quite good, too. Right now, the feeling is just as good as winning a gold. We’re so happy, and finishing the last game with a medal makes the traveling back home much easier.”

Defensively, Sweden performed well in Edmonton. The Juniorkronorna boasted the best combined goaltending numbers (1.44 GAA, 94.1 save percentage) with the duo of Wallstedt and backup Calle Clang. Their penalty kill ruled at 85.7 percent (three goals allowed on 21 disadvantages).

The Swedes didn’t have an easy time scoring in these World Junior playoffs. They edged Latvia 2-1 in the quarter-final before getting blanked by Finland in the semi-final.

The bronze medal game promised to be a defence-first struggle, and it was. The Czechs fared best against tournament powerhouses by taking away time and space in the neutral zone, while Sweden has come close to overdoing it in the patience department at these World Juniors.

Both sides came out hustling hard, but with little to show for it. Swedish captain Emil Andrae rang one off the post during the first Czech penalty to defender Stanislav Svozil.

Lysell opened the scoring at 14:22 on a dynamic solo rush, fighting off Jiri Tichacek’s check on the right side and looping behind the net to surprise Suchanek with a wraparound. It was Lysell’s second goal of the tournament. The 19-year-old Frolunda product, a 2021 Boston Bruins first-rounder, had 22 goals and 62 points with the WHL’s Vancouver Giants last year.

In the second period, the Czechs increased their tempo. Still nada. Sweden’s best mid-period opportunity saw Daniel Ljungman and Oskar Magnusson narrowly fail to make an odd-man break click. A couple of minutes later, Wallstedt didn’t bite when Petr Hauser stole the puck from Anton Olsson in close and tried a backhand deke. The tension mounted.

With 6:38 left in the middle frame, stud Swedish defenceman Simon Edvinsson was sent off for tripping. It took Czechia just eight seconds to tie it up with the man advantage. Off the faceoff in the Swedish end, Jiricek floated a wrister from the blue line that deflected off Gut and fooled Wallstedt, trickling past his right pad.

Less than three minutes later, Sweden regained the lead, likewise off an offensive-zone draw. Theodor Niederbach won it and Rosen jumped into the slot with the puck. As Jiricek turned to block the shot, Rosen used him as a decoy to zing his fourth goal of these World Juniors past Suchanek.

Rosen praised Sweden’s mentality for this third-place showdown: “We said to ourselves, ‘We have to decide if we want to win a bronze or not.’ I think we had a pretty good game today.”

Wrapping up the middle stanza, the teams vigorously traded chances. Jakub Kos slammed one off the iron to Wallstedt’s right, and Suchanek came across with the blocker to stymie an incoming Niederbach.

About 3:30 into the third, Wallstedt foiled Kos from the slot to keep it 2-1 Sweden. After Andrae went off for slashing, the Swedish goalie stayed sharp, sliding across to block a Jiri Kulich PP one-timer.

Of Sweden’s PK prowess, Gut said: “It’s hard. They played us well, but sometimes you score, and sometimes you don’t.”

At the other end, Oskar Olausson sifted through a pair of Czech defenders and barely failed to beat Suchanek for a third Swedish tally. Mid-period, the Czechs squandered another power play after Andrae flipped the puck over the glass in his own zone for a delay-of-game minor. Kos set up Matous Mensik for a fabulous look in front, but again, Wallstedt said no.

With 3:26 left, Sjodin, taking a nice pass on the rush from William Wallinder, beat Suchanek stick-side from the right faceoff circle to make it 3-1. At last there was some breathing room for the blue-and-yellow team.

Suchanek came out for the extra attacker just moments later, but all the Czech pressure was for naught. A mini-scrum erupted in the Swedish end at the buzzer, momentarily interrupting the bronze celebrations.

“We really didn’t want to leave Edmonton without a medal,” Wallstedt said. “We came out today full of confidence and wanted that medal maybe a little bit more than the Czechs.”

In the post-Czechoslovakia era, Czechia has won just three previous World Junior medals: back-to-back golds under coach Jaroslav Holik (2000-01) and a bronze (2005) with a squad featuring Rostislav Olesz, Roman Cervenka, and David Krejci.

Sweden will look to break another long gold medal drought at the 2023 World Juniors (Halifax and Moncton, 26 December to 5 January). Despite their deep talent pool, the Swedes have won the tournament just twice (1981 in West Germany, 2012 in Calgary).

“We have a bronze medal, not a gold medal, so probably it wasn’t a successful tournament,” Andrae said candidly. “That was our target. It’s a tough event, physically and mentally. We had our ups and downs. We did our best.”

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