Team Canada went through a 2 year drought in 2013-2014 when they didn't even qualify for a medal. They came back in an epic win last year, with Curtis Lazar at the helm of the ship, winning gold. This year, Canada didn't qualify for a medal again in a 6-5 loss to Team Finland.
In net today was Mackenzie Blackwood at the Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, Finland. The keys to today's Team Canada win were to quit taking bad penalties while maintaining pressure on the opposition for a full 60 minutes.
Well, Team Canada maintained the pressure for a full 60 minutes, especially in the first period. They came on strong, sacrificing themselves on the forecheck while pushing Team Finland off the puck in the defensive end. Konecny opened the scoring for Canada and a later period goal put Team Canada up by two. But, just before the final buzzer to end the opening period, Finland would break the shutout and close the gap at 2-1 for Canada.
Again, Canada came out of the box strong, shoving Finland off the puck and pushing hard for more goals. But a slip in the defensive end by Brandon Hickey led to another Finland goal and the teams were tied 2-2. Just when Team Canada thought they had one up, the goal was reviewed and it seemed inconclusive so it was waved off. Team Canada wouldn't take no for an answer and they scored again before you could blink. With the third goal of the game, Virtanen would find his first point of the tournament. Finland made a goalie change and it proved productive. He stopped everything that Canada could throw at him. A Finland power play would tie the game at 3-3. And that's when Team Canada would falter. The pressure got to the team and Finland got the go-ahead goal because the Canadian defense broke down, jumping the gun and were too quick to react. Another penalty would put Canada on the defensive again, luckily they killed it off and only came out of the period behind by one goal, 4-3.
Canada opened the final period with a power play goal to tie the game 4-4, but Finland wasn't having any of it and scored quickly to put them ahead again, 5-4. With a power play for Canada, Marner, playing smart and patient with the puck, would even the score once again, 5-5. Strome went down after a hard, awkward hit into the boards between the bench and the Canadians were back on the power play again. But a bad penalty by Virtanen would cost Team Canada an important power play chance. Mackenzie Blackwood stood solid in net and tracked the puck like a pro, the hopes of Team Canada resting on his shoulder pads as Hicketts sent the puck down the ice and into the netting at the far end, which resulted in another Canadian penalty. Bad penalty after bad penalty cost Team Canada heavily as the Finnish team got the final goal of the period and took the win, advancing in the tournament as Canada was sent home with a 6-5 loss.
In the last five minutes of each period, Team Canada lost their patience, took bad penalties, and proved that they weren't ready to move on in the tournament. They couldn't generate solid offense and seemed to play desperate hockey both offensively and defensively. This was their weakness. And the opposition capitalized. At the same time, Team Canada scored FIVE goals and couldn't win the game, which says something about Team Finland - they're a team that pushes back with patience, skill, and a calm demeanour.
As disappointing as it may have been to watch Team Canada lose, it was a great game of back and forth hockey that kept me on the edge of my seat throughout all three periods.
Team Canada is now out of the tournament, unable to maintain last year's first place standing. But Team Sweden plays again Monday against Team Finland. We will continue to follow Team Sweden as Flames prospect, Adam Ollas-Mattsson, helps his national team in hopes of earning the gold medal.