Heartbreaking collapse knocks Canada out of the tournament
Updated: Jan 4, 2019
It's something Canadians aren't used to hearing; team Canada will not compete for a medal in the World Juniors tournament. Unfortunately for all of the fans, that's exactly what they had to hear following the conclusion of Canada's game against Finland.
Realistically, this is the outcome a lot of people feared, but still expected when they heard that Canada wouldn't be finishing at the top of their pool. Finland was a much more complete team, with a ton of talent on both ends of the ice. Having to play them in the quarterfinals is the toughest match-up they could've drawn.
Despite the tough draw, Canada still came in ready to battle for a spot in the semis. They came out of the gate hard, and were taking it to the Fins to start the game. It wasn't long however before Finland tilted the ice the other way. The period ended with the Fins outshooting our hometown boys 12-11, giving them momentum heading into the first intermission.
It took next to no time at all for the hometown crowd to kill that momentum, and give it right back to the Canadians. Just 1:23 into the second, Morgan Frost sent a pass up ice to Barrett Hayton who made a few moves on the defenders before having the puck slide off his stick towards the middle of the ice. Waiting just inside the blue line was defenceman Ian Mitchell. He scooped up the puck and rifled a wrister towards the Finnish net, beating goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and giving the Canadians the lead.
For a long portion of this game, it seemed as though that lead would hold up. Michael DiPietro had by far his best game of the tournament, standing tall every time he was tested, making save after save while his name echoed down from the crowd. There was an awesome shot on the TSN broadcast that showed Mike's mother in tears as "DiPietro" chants could be heard from the Canadian crowd. It made it that much more heartbreaking then, to see how his night would eventually turn around.
Finland decided to risk it all rather early in this one, pulling their goalie with more than two minutes remaining on the clock. Canada narrowly had their opportunity to seal the deal on multiple occasions (including a play involving captain Maxime Comtois that was called offside), but were unable to find the back of the net.
It would prove costly as, with only 55 seconds remaining in the game, Nashville Predators prospect Eeli Tolvanen would skate the puck from his own end into the corner and behind Canada's net. From there, he somehow managed to bank one in over the shoulder of DiPietro to tie the game at one with less than 47 seconds left to play.
It was devestating for the Canadians, but they had to turn it around right away for the overtime period. Hopes were high early on as Evan Bouchard stripped the Finnish player of the puck at the Canadian blue line, and was hooked on the ensuing breakaway to give team Canada a penalty shot to win the game.
This is where Tim Hunter made one of the strangest coaching decisions of the tournament, electing to go with Comtois as opposed to any of his more gifted scorers. Comtois tried to go five hole to no avail, and the game continued.
It was clear the luck wasn't with Canada tonight, exemplified perfectly on the final play of the game. Cody Glass sent a dime of a pass to a wide open Noah Dobson who was looking at five feet of open net. It wasn't meant to be though, as Dobson's stick blew up into two pieces, leaving Finland with a two on one the other way.
On the rush, Aarne Talvitie dropped the puck to Toni Utonen who beat DiPietro glove side to send the Canadians home empty handed.
It was a heartbreaking 10 minutes for any Canadian following the game, as things went from promising to over and done with in what felt like a blink of an eye. Canadians across the country were devastated at the loss of what should've been another semi final appearance for this team.
The one thing that didn't need to happen, was the abuse Canadians gave Max Comtois after the disappointing finish. Right after the game, people took to Comtois' Instagram to voice their displeasure of what happened. While the 19 year old has since disabled the comments, Sportsnet's Faizal Khamisa tweeted out pictures of the comments ranging anywhere from "I hope you get HIV" to "way to lose it for the whole country."
Listen, I understand why you would be upset at the outcome of this one. Hockey is Canada's game, and we expect to win this tournament every year, but the comments seen here are not the way to deal with it. Keep this in mind if you ever decide to do something similar... IT'S JUST A GAME! Tomorrow, we're all going to wake up the same as we were when the night began. What do you get out of cyber bullying a 19 year old kid? Absolutely nothing. We're better than that Canada... Let's act like it.
As for Finland, they are set to face Switzerland on Friday night. The Swiss pulled off the upset of the tournament on Wednesday, shutting out #1 seed Sweden in a game they had no business winning. No matter who you're rooting for in the remainder of the tournament, keep things positive, and hope for some great games.