SOCHI – Canada will compete in the 2013 IIHF U18 World Championship gold medal game after defeating Finland 3-1 during the first semi-final in Sochi.
On the strength of two second period goals, the team in red and white outlasted Finland to earn its first trip to the gold medal game in five years.
Frederik Gauthier had two assists on his birthday, both in the second, while Josh Morrissey, Morgan Klimchuk, and Samuel Bennett lit the lamp for the Canadians.
"We've come a long way from the start," said defenceman Josh Morrissey. "It took some time to get the chemistry together but we have gotten better each game and that's what's important."
Taking a 2-0 lead into the third period, Canada gave up a two-man advantage to the Finns at 13:00. Joose Antonen got his team back into the game, batting the puck in past Canadian goaltender Philippe Desrosiers.
But the Canadians were able to keep the puck out of the net during a nervous few final minutes. With the goalie pulled for Finland, Samuel Bennett intercepted the puck in the Finnish zone, and fired it home sending his team to the gold medal game.
"We hung in there today," said Canada head coach Don Hay. "It wasn't our best game, the guys were tired and fatigued from playing last night, but we were able to score two in the second and after Finland scored we played solid in the last nine minutes."
Both teams played tightly through the first period, neither able to generate many quality chances against the opposing goaltender. Canada, which won the last two games thanks to strong physical play and timely scoring, had a hard time getting bodies on the Finns, one of the smaller teams in the tournament.
But at 16:07 of the second period, a give-and-go between Frederik Gauthier and captain Sam Reinhart allowed Gauthier to break free into the Finnish zone and pass it off to Morgan Klimchuk in front of the net for Klimchuk’s third goal of the tournament.
Finland took a penalty immediately following the goal, a holding call on Jimi Kuronen. No more than a few seconds into the power play Gauthier got his second helper, jamming the puck at goaltender Juuse Saros from the side of the net. Saros gave up the rebound and defenceman Josh Morrissey was there on the other side of the crease to finish the play and put his team up 2-0.
Finland caught some momentum late in the period but still couldn’t get the puck to go in. Desrosiers made point blank stop on Juuso Ikonen, but Ikonen came right back on the next play, jamming in a rebound during a scrum in front to seemingly cut Canada’s lead to 2-1 until the referee waved the goal off following an early whistle.
"We played a solid game," said Finland head coach Mika Marttila. "The players left everything on the ice, but it was not to be."
The Canadians will now compete for a U18 gold medal for the first time since 2008, curiously enough the last time the tournament was held in Russia. Canada played the spoiler for the tournament hosts that year, demolishing Russia 8-0 to earn country’s second gold medal at the tournament.
The team will have to wait until the game tonight between semifinalists Russia and the United States, to see whether history might repeat itself.
Click here for the 2013 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship website in English and Russian.