Insane and unexpected. That’s really all you can say to describe this run from Canada at the 2021 IIHF World Hockey Championships. After staring down an 0-3 start, the team has since reeled off five wins in six games, which culminated today in a 4-2 semifinal victory over the United States.
The variable that changed between those first three games and the last six? Andrew Mangiapane.
With another two goals today, he now sits second in tournament scoring with 11 points, including being tied for the goal lead with seven. His point total is second only to his linemate Connor Brown. Both of the above players along with their centre Adam Henrique were named as Canada’s 3 Best Players of the Tournament today, shortly after Mangiapane also received player of the game honours for Canada.
Canada jumped out to an early lead thanks to Brandon Pirri beating Cal Petersen after a juicy rebound floated out in front of the American net. Colin Blackwell tied the game for the United States late in the first period to send the game to the intermission even at 1-1.
Early in the second period, Mangiapane went to work. After a tenacious forecheck from the Canadians, Mangiapane pulled it in front and tried to find Brown, but in the chaos the puck went behind Petersen and Mangiapane poked it home.
That goal was the only scoring of the second period as Canada held a tight 2-1 lead heading to the third. Which is again when Mangiapane took over. After a nice save by Darcy Kuemper, Brown found Mangiapane streaking up the middle before he put on a gorgeous move to dangle around Petersen and score his second of the game and seventh of the tournament.
Sasha Chmelevski pulled USA back within one just a few minutes later but Canada managed to shut things down before Justin Danforth hit the empty net late to seal the victory. The top line for Canada again carries them to victory.
As Flames fans we already knew a lot about what Mangiapane brings to the table, but I think it’s safe to say that this tournament has been an eye opener for fans of other teams who are seeing just how good he is.
It’s has got to the point in this tournament where things like the following have been floated:
I mean, we shouldn’t get too crazy since a recent projected roster I saw had Mat Barzal as a healthy scratch for the Olympic team, but I would have to think he has at least put his name in the conversation with just how well he has played in Latvia.
Semifinal 2: Finland 2 vs Germany 1
In the other semifinal, we saw Finland take a 2-0 lead with a pair of quick goals late in the first period and ride that on to victory over Germany. Despite the Germans heavily outshooting Finland 28-17, they were only able to beat Juusi Olkinuora once in the game and were unable to break through for the tie in the third period.
Bronze Medal Game - United States vs Germany
Despite both sides suffering crushing losses in their semifinal games, they will have to quickly turn around for tomorrow’s bronze medal game which goes at 6:15 AM MT for anyone interested in watching.
Germany will be going for their first medal at a World Hockey Championship since 1953. On the American side, this year was yet another failure to get through the semi-final round and into the gold medal game. I still find it shocking that they haven’t played for gold in this tournament since 1960. The United States has picked up bronze medals in three of the previous six tournaments and will look to add another to their list.
Gold Medal Game - Finland vs Canada
After all of the unpredictability we saw in the preliminary round of this tournament, it is somewhat surprising that we’ve ended up with a rematch of the 2019 finals, where Finland beat Canada 3-1. This is the third gold medal game in the last five tournaments that these two sides have gone head-to-head, and fifth time in history.
Of course the Finns could have avoided this matchup had they managed to beat the Canadians in regulation in the final game of the round robin, but that game went to a shootout which gave Canada the one point they needed to sneak in. That game was extremely close and I expect more of the same in the championship game.
The name of the game for Canada will be finding a way to break through the Finnish defences early, as the Finns have yet to allow more than two goals in any game during this tournament. They are very comfortable getting ahead early and then shutting things down the rest of the way.
Puck drop will be at 11:15 AM MT, where we will see if Andrew Mangiapane has one last big performance in him for Canada. He has currently opened a lot of eyes across the country with this tournament, cementing a lot of what we already knew as Flames fans.