Canada edges Finns to go for gold
by Lucas Aykroyd|12 JUN 2022
Canada's Madison Chantler scores the game-winning goal against Finland.
photo: Chris Tanouye / HHOF-IIHF Images
With a tough 2-1 semi-final win over Finland on Sunday, Canada advanced to the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women's World Championship gold medal game. Madison Chantler scored the winner midway through the third period.

"It feels unreal," said Chantler, who also scored the deciding goal in the 7-0 quarter-final win over Slovakia. "I'm so proud of this team. We wouldn't have been able to do it if we didn't all work together. So the energy was pretty up in the room."

The Canadians avoided getting upset by Finland for what would have been the second time at these U18 Worlds and in tournament history. Coach Howie Draper’s Canadians will take on the U.S.-Sweden semi-final winner for the big prize on Monday (19:30 local time).

"I think number one, we're starting to come together as a team on the ice," said Draper. "It's been an outstanding experience for all of us off the ice. It's a very tight-knit group. And everybody cares deeply about the success of each other, which is very important. But I just feel like we're starting to bring that chemistry on the ice as well."

Jade Iginla got her first goal of the tournament for Canada after missing the group stage with an upper-body injury.

"It feels great," Iginla said. "I feel like we worked through our adversity and we're all here now as a group to get a shot at the gold medal."

Tilli Keranen replied for coach Mira Kuisma's Finns.

"I think Canada played very hard," said forward Sanni Vanhanen, a 2022 Olympic bronze medalist. "And we were like a little too soft with the puck and in the battle situations. But I'm really proud of this team that we played this well here. And we need to focus on tomorrow's game."

Final shots favoured Canada 45-10. Canada's work ethic is unquestioned, but the shot selection and playmaking have not been as creative as they could be, which could be a drawback in the final.

The starting goalies came in with important wins under their belts. Finland's Emilia Kyrkko, of course, had the 40-save shutout versus Canada in the historic 2-0 win on Day One and was nearly as good here with 43 saves. Canada's Mari Pietersen was solid and sharp for the 7-0 quarter-final win over Slovakia and came through with the "W" yet again here.

Keranen praised Kyrkko: "Emilia was amazing. We couldn't expect more from her."

Finland’s all-time U18 Women’s record versus Canada now sits at one win and 10 losses.

Canada has won five U18 Women’s Worlds gold medals (2010, 2012-14, 2019), second only to the U.S.’s eight gold medals. At the last tournament in 2020, the Canadians ended up with the silver medal when the U.S.’s Kiara Zanon scored the 2-1 overtime winner in the final in Bratislava.

Getting another crack at the host Americans would be an exciting challenge for Canada. The Canadians fell 7-0 to the U.S. – the worst U18 Women’s Worlds loss in Canadian history – to end the group stage. Revenge, anybody?

"We've got to take one more step and get a little bit better in all areas tomorrow," Draper said. "And if we can do that, I think we can give them a really good game."

The Finns still have a shot at a bronze medal. In this age-restricted tournament, they haven’t historically been as proficient as at the Olympics and Women’s Worlds, where they are the perennial favourites for third place. Finland’s only two U18 Women’s Worlds previous medals were bronze in 2011 and 2019.

Kuisma was not happy with how her team let a 3-2 lead slip away in the 4-3 loss to Sweden. The Swedes tallied twice with their goalie pulled for the extra attacker, including Jenna Raunio’s winner with eight seconds left. This semi-final against Canada witnessed a much more consistent effort.

A visibly emotional Kuisma expressed pride in her team: "They couldn't fight any better. Good game for us. The first 10 minutes, Canada came very hard, but we defended. It was very good and then more tight than I'd thought."
Finland vs Canada (SF) - 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women's World Championship
With a tough 2-1 semi-final win over Finland, Canada advanced to the gold medal game.
FIN CAN 13 JUN 2022
Coming off the quarter-final romp over Slovakia, Canada’s offence finally appeared to be firing on all cylinders. But filling the net wouldn't come easy against Suomi.

In the early going, Kyrkko had to make a fine glove save on hard-shooting Canadian blueliner Sara Swiderski off a faceoff in the Finnish zone. She also shone with back-to-back stops in close on Emmalee Pais and Holly Abela. The Team Kuortane’s netminder’s dialed-in play made you wonder if she’d be the great equalizer again.

The Canadians simply continued putting pucks on net. The Finns didn’t register a shot on net until the 12-minute mark, but were still playing scrappy, determined hockey.

Iginila got Canada on the board at 15:04, looping around the Finnish zone through the high slot and lofting a wrister past Kyrkko from the right faceoff circle. Her renowned father Jarome Iginla, who scored eight Olympic and two IIHF World Championship goals in his Hall of Fame career, was on hand to witness it, fully decked out in red with a Canadian baseball cap and University of Wisconsin hoodie.

"Getting that first goal was critical against a team like Finland, because when they get the first goal, they kind of lock it down even more, and they're so strong defensively that they’re a tough team to play against," Draper said. "So getting the first goal gave us some breathing room."

The Finns pressed during an end-of-period power play with Jordan Baxter off for tripping. Just before the horn, Pietersen made a fabulous left-toe save on Oona Havana’s deflected shot from the slot to preserve Canada’s lead.

In the second period, the teams traded early chance. Julia Schalin got in behind the Canadian defence on a quick break, but Pietersen stood her ground. Canada hustled right back with an odd-player rush, and Kyrkko said no to Baxter from the slot.

Keranen tied the game with her first goal of these U18 Women's Worlds at 7:52. Coming in over the blue line, Vanhanen got the puck up to Pauliina Salonen, and she fed it right over to Keranen, whose one-timer squeezed past Pietersen.

"It was kind of an accident, but it went in, so that's the most important thing," said Keranen.

The Finns were still getting outshot by the aggressive Canadians, but got some quality chances. Heidi Kokora, Finland's tallest skater at 183 cm, got around the red-and-white defence for a chance, but the puck slid off her stick at the last moment.

To start the third period, the Finns got a power play, thanks to a delayed call on Abela for tripping up Havana in the neutral zone. They couldn't cash in. The Canadians got their first 5-on-4 when assistant captain Jenniina Kuoppala was penalized for shoving Aubin to the ice. Kyrkko had to make a flurry of good stops, including one right off the bat on a Swiderski shot from the blue line.

Chantler finally broke the deadlock at 10:30. Karel Prefontaine, seconds after an open-ice collision with Finnish captain Anna-Kaisa Antti-Roiko, sent a long pass to Chantler. She powered down the right side around blueliner Tuuli Tallinen and cut to the net to score on a backhand deke. The Canadians celebrated with jubilation and relief.

"Once I got that step on the D, I knew that goalie was coming over to my side, and when I faked the shot, she came down," said Chantler. "So I just pulled it over to my backhand and popped it in."

The Finns squandered their third power play with Avahla Adam taking her second minor of the game. With under five minutes left to play, Pietersen came up big to stop Vanhanen on a partial breakaway. Vanhanen also heartbreakingly hit the post in the dying seconds.

Looking ahead to the bronze medal game, Keranen said: "I learned that our team is so much better than what any of us thought. So I think if we just play hard, we're gonna win."

Canada’s power play still hasn't converted in Madison, sitting at 0-for-14. If it comes through in the final, that could be a game-changer. Stay tuned.
Finland vs Canada (SF) - 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women's World Championship