Canada wins “little miracle” gold
by Andrew Podnieks|06 JUN 2021
The Canadian players celebrate after winning gold against Finland.
photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
Nick Paul scored at 6:26 of the first three-on-three unlimited overtime to give Canada its 21st all-time gold medal at the World Championship. The goal gave Canada a 3-2 win over Finland and avenges a 2019 loss at the hands of Suomi. It is Canada's third gold in the last six years.

The goal came off a faceoff in the Canada end. Petri Kontiola won the draw and circled quickly. He made a blind pass that was picked off by Paul. Paul roared up ice with Connor Brown on a two-on-one and passed to Brown in the Finland end. Brown controlled the puck and got it back to Paul, and he knocked it into the open net as goalie Jussi Olkinuora played Brown to shoot.

Canada came back from being down 1-0 and 2-1, and this marked the first game all tournament that Finland surrendered as many as three goals. Both of Canada's regulation goals came on the power play.

While Canada is always a favourite to win gold, this year's edition was anything but a sure bet. In fact, Canada lost its first three games, and a fourth in a shootout to Finland on the final day of the preliminary round, qualifying for the playoffs only by fortuitous results elsewhere in the group.

Incredibly, the Canadians won six of their last seven games including playoff wins over ROC, USA, and Finland to win what is surely their most improbable of the 21 championships.

"I’m so proud of those guys," said winning coach Gerard Gallant. "They never quit. It was a tough, tough start for us, but to see them battle back, so many one-goal games, and obviously tonight an overtime game. I’m proud of our group."

"It’s unbelievable," said captain Adam Henrique. "It’s special to lead this group all the way to the gold. I’m sure a lot of people counted us out early in the tournament, but we kept believing in ourselves, and we stuck with it right till the end. We went all the way, so it was a heckuva tournament, and we won’t get a lot of sleep tonight."

Brown assisted on all three goals for Canada today and led the tournament in scoring with 16 points. 
No team in IIHF history at any top-level event has even won gold after losing four games.

Only three teams have ever won World Championship gold after losing three games. The Czechs lost three in 1999 but two of those losses came in the playoff round when the format was best-of-two. Canada lost three in 1997, including one of the best-of-three finals, and Sweden lost three in 1987 when there were two tiers of round robin games.

"I'll remember the adversity we faced," suggested Maxime Comtois looking back at what the team has accomplished. "When they posted our roster, I remember the comments. People weren't giving us a chance. People were unhappy with the decision Hockey Canada made with the roster. And we proved everybody wrong. We had some adversity throughout the tournament. We really played good hockey down the stretch when it counted, and at the end of the day we have a gold medal."

Victory is especially sweet for the two returning Canadians from the 2019 finals, captain Adam Henrique and defenceman Troy Stecher.

"They play such a tight and structured game," Henrique said. "We knew it was going to be a battle. You see throughout the tournament they don't give up much at all, so we knew we were going to have to find a way to score a few goals to win. Once they get a lead, they're tough to come back on. It's certainly nice to come over and get a little revenge for last time, especially for me and 'Stech.'"

For the Finns, they had eight players in today's game who won gold two years ago: goalie Jussi Olkinuora, captain Marko Anttila, as well as Miikka Koivisto, Oliwer Kaski, Niko Ojamaki, Atte Ohtamaa, Petteri Lindbohm, and Jere Sallinen.

"It was a one-goal game; there were a lot of those in this tournament," Anttila said. "I think we lost the wrong one. Of course, it hurts, but I’m very proud of the team. We played pretty well, and we were pretty close to winning something. But it’s hockey."

"I’m very proud of the performance of our team generally," said Finnish coach Jukka Jalonen. "We played very well all the tournament. We didn’t lose any game in regulation time and we were very committed. The players fought their hearts out like they did today, and I can’t do anything else but to praise the guys."
Finland vs Canada (Final) - 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship
FIN CAN 06 JUN 2021
Canada had a tough start, incurring 16 minutes of penalties in the opening period to none for Finland. Ten of those came on a 2 + 10 call to Justin Danforth in the early going. Although the Finns didn’t capitalize on that man advantage, they did on the second one to Nick Paul for high sticking.

Kaski took a point shot with Mikael Ruohomaa in front. Rather than tip the puck, Ruohomaa stopped it, spun and put the puck onto his forehand, and lifted the puck in the open side as he was falling. The penalty to Paul had expired one second earlier, but he wasn’t able to get back in play in time.

The Canadians took a third penalty but managed to kill that as well. But the toll wasn’t so much on the Finnish side of the scoreboard as it was that Canada wasn’t able to get any flow to its game, and the big line of Henrique-Brown-Andrew Mangiapane managed only a few shifts without testing Olkinuora from in close.

Maxime Comtois tied the game for Canada early in the second after the Finns took two consecutive penalties that gave Canada 12 seconds on five-on-three in the process. Comtois hit the post on the first man advantage, swiping quickly at a loose puck, only to see it miss the empty net and dribble off the iron. 

Next shift, though, Comtois converted. Brown took a long shot that drifted off the crossbar, and this time Comtois didn’t miss on the rebound opportunity. 

The Finns had another power play later in the period, but Kuemper made his best save of the game when he stoned Kontiola from point-blank range.

With four minutes left in the period, Canada scored again when Adam Henrique knocked in a rebound, but as has become the norm in the tournament the defending team immediately went to its iPad to check for an offside. Finnish coach Jukka Jalonen challenged the play, and sure enough the goal was called back because the entry into the zone was offside.

Canada almost went ahead early in the third on a flukey play. Olkinuora misplayed a shoot-in and the puck bounced off the back of the net and rolled to the side, but Brandon Pirri couldn't poke the puck in before he was checked.

That miss proved costly. Seconds later, Petteri Lindbohm fired a shot from the top of the left faceoff circle through traffic that beat Kuemper over the glove at 5:27, giving the Finns their second lead of the game.

But Canada pressed and drew a power play of their own. And they converted. Brown got the puck to the goal where Comtois put the puck between his legs and Henrique poked the rebound in at 12:37, tying the game, 2-2. The rest of the period felt like overtime, but neither team could score before 60 minutes. That set the stage for Nick Paul's heroics.

"Our only mindset in the overtime was that we came back during this whole tournament," Comtois said. "Nothing was easy. We came back from being down 0-3. We came back against ROC. We just told ourselves that we were going to do it again. We came out feeling loose, and we dictated the overtime."
Finland vs Canada (Final) - 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship