Canada’s bronze lining

Strong finish to 2012 U20 with 4-0 win over Finland

05.01.2012
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Scotiabank Saddledome Calgary Alberta Canada

Team Canada poses for its bronze-medal photo after beating Finland, 4-0. (Photo by Andy Devlin/HHOF-IIHF Images)

CALGARY – Quinton Howden scored twice and Tanner Pearson and Mark Scheifele combined for a pair of goals to lead Canada to a 4-0 win over Finland to claim the bronze medal in Calgary. Goalie Mark Visentin stopped all 27 shots, including one on a penalty shot and one of the hightlight'reel variety. "I'm happy he got the shutout," said Freddie Hamilton, Visentin's junior teammate in Niagara. "It's great for him to redeem himself after last year in Buffalo. We ended the tournament on a winning note. We won this game for each other. We've been together a long time." "We’re disappointed we’re not playing in the [gold medal] game tonight, " said Canada's coach Don Hay, "but to win bronze is an honour. I wish we could have tied it up [against Russia], but the tournament is very competitive. There are very good teams here. We’re really happy that we could end the tournament on a positive note." The win was the result of timely scoring, excellent goaltending, and discipline, the three ingredients that were missing two nights ago in the team’s 6-5 loss to Russia. With the loss, Finland finishes fourth. "We did not want to leave this tournament empy-handed," said Brett Connolly. "We have a lot of pride in this jersey, and we owed it to the fans of Edmonton and Calgary. We left it all on the ice today." "It was a very difficult game to play after we lost such a close game to Sweden," admitted Finnish defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen. "We never want to lose to Sweden." Finland was both fortunate to be down only a goal after the first period and also a little unlucky not to have tied the game as well. Pearson opened the scoring at 9:08 when he redirected a great pass from Scheifele in close during a power play. Just a short time later, though, on another man-advantage situation, Canada was caught flat-footed, enabling Markus Granlund to bust up the middle on a clean break. He made his move a little early and didn’t get much of a shot off, but Visentin was there with the right pad to block the shot all the same. Canada took the game’s first penalty but then got the next four power plays, including a brief stretch of five-on-three, but the Finns and goalie Sami Aittokallio were perfect and kept it a one-goal game after 20 minutes. If Canada was the better team in the first, it was dominating in the second. Much of the period was played in the Finnish end, and Canada got the only two goals of the period, the first on a fine play by Scheifele to Pearson. Scheifele intercepted a pass by Konsta Mäkinen deep in the Finnish end and fired a quick pass to Pearson coming through the slot. Pearson made no mistake with the shot. "Canada was the better team today," acknowledged Finnish coach Raimo Helminen. "I’m glad how the players played the whole tournament, but today we were probably a little nervous at the beginning of the game." Late in the period, Visentin was called for throwing his goalie stick and the Finns were awarded a penalty shot. Teemu Pulkkinen bore down on Visentin but tried to go through the goalie’s legs only to see the puck kicked back out to keep the score 2-0. "I didn’t do anything special," Pulkkinen explained. "I tried to shoot five-hole, but it didn’t work." A perfect example of discipline came late in the period and led to Canada extending its lead to 3-0. Miikka Salomäki wrestled a Canadian player into the net in a one-sided tussle, resulting in the power play. Howden made Suomi pay by knocking the puck in from the crease and putting the home side in control, the bronze medal now in sight. Canada battened the proverbial hatches in the third, but the play of the game belonged to Visentin. Early in the final period, as he hugged the near post, a shot got behind him in midair. He swooped his glove in behind and caught the puck in one motion, and as the play went to video review fans clapped in admiration for the remarkable save. "On the bench, at first everyone just thought the puck was caught up in his pads or something," offered Dougie Hamilton. "But to see it went off his shoulder and went right into his glove, that was pretty cool." Quinton Howden finished a nice passing play late in the game to complete the scoring. "I tried to give my team a chance to win. We tried our best, but the Canadians came out strong early," said Aittokallio. "I think in general we played well at this tournament. After that first loss we bounced back and won many games. Against Sweden we had bad luck. But I’m pretty happy about our team. We were pretty good this year. We would have liked to win a medal, but we didn’t." ANDREW PODNIEKS
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