2012 IIHF World Junior Championship – Canada vs. Finland – December 26, 2011

On the opening day of the 2012 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships there were still some questions in regards to the Canadian team.  Who would be the starting goaltender?  Where would the goal scoring come from?  Would forward Jonathan Huberdeau be fully recovered from his injury?  Would the team be able to remain focused despite all the energy and distractions that come from playing in their home country?  Lots of questions and in what must have been a relief to coach Doug Hays and fans across the country the team provided plenty of answers in their first game.

After playing on the team that went through that disastrous collapse in last year’s gold medal game and allowing four quick goals on 13 shots in a pre tournament game against Sweden just a few days before the beginning of this year’s tournament Mark Visentin, who came into the tournament as the sure fire number one goaltender, was on shaky ground.  A small goaltending controversy ensued.  Scott Wedgewood the back up was considered.  Finally, when push came to shove, Doug Hays had the last word and his word was Visentin.  He chose the veteran (Visentin is one of four returning players from last year’s team) to start the first game in the tournament versus Finland.  Visentin

Three of the last four tournaments have been in Canada.  And you might as well consider the fourth a Canadian home tournament as it was just cross the border in Buffalo, New York.  In this hockey mad country the pressure on these teenagers is incredible.  If they get anything other than a gold medal it is seen as a failure.  That pressure plus all the incredible energy would be hard to handle even for a veteran player never mind this junior aged kids.  But handle it they did.

Hays put out his energy line of Devante Smith-Pelly-Freddie Hamilton-Quinton Howden to begin the game.  It was the right move.  They had a great scoring chance in the first 30 seconds.  Canada continued to apply the pressure on the young, inexperienced Finnish side until they struck for the game’s first goal at 2:14.

Mark Stone from his office of right in front of the net converted a beautiful pass from behind the net from Jonathan Huberdeau.  The same Huberdeau who was the first player to make the Canadian team without stepping on the ice due to his recovering from a broken foot.  Throughout the game he proved time and time again that he is more than ready and recovered.  Question number three answered.

Question number four was about offence and where it would come from.  Stone’s goal was the first of the three he would score and eight Canada would score over the course of the 60 minute game.  Besides Stone’s hat trick Habs prospect Brendan Gallagher, Dougie Hamilton, Huberdeau, Brett Connolly, and Ryan Strome all notched singles.  Finland only managed a single goal in the 2nd period by Alexander Ruuttu, son of former NHLer Christian Ruuttu.

The only negative in the game for Canada occurred in the 2nd period when centreman Devante Smith-Pelly blocked a point shot.  Unfortunately he blocked it with his left ankle.  He finished the shift and started one more, but after taking the faceoff he hobbled off the ice straight into the dressing room.  He left the Rexall Place wearing a walking cast and on crutches.  Smith-Pelly centers the shut down line.  It will be a big loss if he can’t go.

As per tradition the national anthem of the winning side was played after the game.  Let’s hope that was not the last time we will hear O Canada after a game.  Canada’s next game is Wednesday night against the Czech Republic.

Game Stats:
Goals:  1st Period:
2:14:  Canada – Mark Stone assisted by Jonathan Humberdeau and Ryan Strome
4:25:  Canada – Brendan Gallagher assisted by Dougie Hamilton and Jaden Schwartz
2nd Period:
1:21:  Finland – Alexander Ruuttu assisted by Miro Aaltonen and Aleksander Barkov
3:02:  Canada – Mark Stone assisted by Jonathan Huberdeau and Freddie Hamilton
9:24:  Canada – (pp)  Jonathan Huberdeau assisted by Tanner Pearson and Nathan Beaulieu
12:54:  Canada – (pp)  Dougie Hamilton assisted by Jaden Schwartz and Ryan Strome
3rd Period:
0:52:  Canada – Brett Connolly assisted by Brandon Gormley and Tanner Pearson
4:05:  Canada – Mark Stone assisted by Jonathan Huberdeau and Ryan Strome
7:18:  Canada – Ryan Strome assisted by Jonathan Huberdeau and Brandon Gallagher
-Shots on Goal:  Canada:  42
Finland:  25
-Players of the Game: Canada:  Mark Stone
Finland:  Alexander Ruuttu
-Final Score:  Canada:  8
Finland:  1

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