World Juniors 2019: The United States enters the 2018-19 IIHF World Junior Championship in the midst of the most successful stretch in the history.The World Juniors 2019 is being played in Vancouver and Victoria, B.C., from Dec 26 to Jan 5. Home 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship. Russia scored four goals in the first eleven minutes, chased starting goalie Samuel Hlavaj from the crease, and breezed to a 8-3 win over Slovakia in the last of the quarter-finals games.
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Canada was within 46.4 seconds of advancing to the semifinals of the 2019 World Junior Championship.
Instead, the host nation finds itself eliminated from the tournament as an unlikely sequence of events led to Finland claiming a 2-1 overtime victory over the Canadians on Wednesday in Vancouver.
After Canada had taken the lead early in the second period through Ian Mitchell, it seemed as if there was nothing the Finns could do to equalize. Canadian goaltender Michael DiPietro was sensational in net, stopping everything that came his way for over 59 minutes as the Finnish team outshot its opponent but couldn’t capitalize.Then, with less than a minute remaining and a desperate Finland squad pushing forward, an innocuous-looking centering attempt by Eeli Tolvanen led to an improbable game-tying goal as the puck deflected off the net and back to Tolvanen before bouncing off Aleksi Heponiemi’s skate and under DiPietro’s arm. The goal quieted a raucous crowd at Rogers Arena, and set the tone for the overtime period to come.
The 4-on-4 extra frame started off with the same frantic pace that was on display during much of regulation time, and just over a minute in Canada found itself with two great chances to end the game. First, Evan Bouchard charged in alone from the right wing and nearly sent the crowd into a frenzy when his breakaway attempt, but he was tugged from behind while attempting to shoot which led to a penalty shot.
With the game on the line, captain Max Comtois stepped up for the penalty shot but was easily stopped by Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen as he tried to slide the puck under the Finnish goalie’s outstretched right leg.
Despite the setback, the Canadians kept pushing and made it to the verge of scoring through Noah Dobson with less than five minutes remaining. Dobson lined up what appeared to be a surefire one-timed goal but his stick broke on the shot attempt, allowing the Finns to break on the counterattack. A few seconds later the puck was in the back of the Canadian net after Toni Utunen’s wrist shot deflected off Cody Glass’ stick and past DiPietro.
The result sees Canada exit the tournament without a shot at a medal for the first time in 13 World Junior Championships on Canadian soil.
Canada and Finland have already played each other as part of the 2019 World Junior Hockey Championship. In a pre-tournament tune-up game on December 23, Finland went on to win by a 5-2 score.
While they did hit that number of goals two times in the round robin, in games against gold-medal contenders Sweden and USA the offence was non-existent. Finland had just two goals total versus the eventual top seeds of Group B.
They were heavy favourites for a medal before the tournament began, but those results, along with surprisingly poor offensive showings from top players Eeli Tolvanen and Rasmus Kupari, meant two losses and a third-place finish after the preliminary round. Their best offensive player has just two goals (with sole possession of that title), while half the skaters have either one or zero points on their statlines.
Unless they can find a way to contain the tournament’s highest-scoring team, the Finns will need to see several slumps busted this evening to make it to the semifinal.
Canada will be counting on the multi-line offensive effort they’ve enjoyed throughout — six of the team’s forwards have at least two goals — while hoping the top defensive unit can keep things contained at the back end.
The Finns know that Canada is beatable. Both teams are in this matchup because of losses on New Year’s Eve. Whichever one stops a losing streak from reaching two is staying alive in the tournament tonight.We eat our young each winter at this event, in a hockey-mad country that has turned the world junior hockey championship into an annual “gold medal or bust” affair.
We don’t even alter our expectations between the years where we’ve got the runaway favourite, or lower-pedigree years like this one, where this Canadian roster may not have shoulders broad enough to handle the weight.
Do the math: There have been 42 tournaments and we’ve won 17 of them. That means that, 25 times, our brightest and best 18- and 19-year-olds have returned to their junior and college teams as failures, after having given everything they have in an attempt to keep us Canadians entertained through the Christmas break.
Is it too much?
“I grew up (feeling that way) too,” shrugged Canadian defenceman Ian Mitchell. “Everyone knows, that’s the expectation. Part of being Canadian, I guess.”
So it was that on New Year’s Day, an off-day before this tournament really gets into gear, a bunch of Canadian hockey journalists gathered around teenager after teenager asking them about the pressure.
The pressure of having lost to Russia the night before. The pressure of entering the sudden-death stage of this tournament. The pressure of meeting Finland in a quarterfinal, a team that beat them 5-2 in a tournament tune-up game.
You know, because constantly reminding people of how much pressure they’re under tends to have a calming effect…
“With the tournament being in Canada, there’s added pressure,” admitted goalie Mike DiPietro. “Not only that everyone else puts on us, but pressure put on ourselves, internally, that we want to do well and succeed.”