By Gemma Karstens-Smith in Edmonton
Ridly Greig was a little battered after helping Canada to a big win at the World Junior Hockey Championship on Monday.
The Ottawa Senators prospect not only scored and contributed an assist in the 6-3 win over Finland, but he blocked some big shots when the Canadians were penalized in the third period.
“Whatever it takes to win, whatever it takes to do anything for the boys or to get some momentum, I’m going to do it,” Greig said. “Whether it’s standing in front of a slapshot, I’ll do it.”
Special teams made the difference on Monday, as the Canadians went 2-2 on the power play while Finland went 1-5.
The Finns got their second streak in five-on-three hockey with less than five minutes left when William Dufour joined Ethan del Mastro in the penalty box.
Finland pulled goalkeeper Leevi Merilainen just as del Mastro’s penalty expired and, with the extra man, Roby Jarventie put a puck through Canadian goalkeeper Dylan Garand’s glove to make it 5-3.
Dufour sealed the score at 6-3 with a shot into an empty net at 18:13 of the third.
The Finns had a great opportunity to eat into Canada’s lead with a one-minute two-man advantage midway through the final period.
Donovan Sebrango was sent into the box for a high stick and less than a minute later teammate Will Cuylee was ejected from the game for a knee-to-knee strike.
Canada held off two men and then went the remaining four minutes of the major penalty without conceding a goal.
“I thought our penalty kill was elite today, so many guys were blocking shots. And that’s a good sign for a team trying to win something,” said Canadian captain Mason McTavish, who had a goal and two assists in the victory.
“Finland, they’re a great team. I think they were 3-0 at the start, their power play is ridiculous. So the fact that our PK had one of the best power plays in the tournament is huge for us.
Connor Bedard scored and provided an assist for Canada (4-0-0), while Dufour, Brennan Othmann and Tyson Foerester also found the back of the net. Olen Zellweger had three assists.
Joakim Kemell scored and provided an assist for Finland (3-1-0) and Samuel Helenius completed the scoring.
Canada’s Garand made 22 saves and Merilainen stopped 31 of the Finns’ 36 shots.
The result was important for Canada, which finished the preliminary round top of Group A. They will face Switzerland from Group B (1-3-0) in the quarter-finals on Wednesday.
Switzerland clinched their place in the quarter-finals earlier on Monday with a 3-2 victory over Austria (0-0-4).
Finland were disappointed with Monday’s result, head coach Antti Pennanen said.
“It was good, but it wasn’t enough. And we were angry after the game for sure,” he said.
A big goal early in the third reduced the Finns’ deficit to 5-2.
Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Topi Niemela fired a point shot and Kemell deflected it from the crevice for his third goal of the tournament.
Canada asked a coach for a challenge, arguing that the puck had come out of the net before landing on the ice in front of goal.
“The guys on the ice are usually the ones who can tell you what’s going on,” said head coach Dave Cameron. “My players were 100 per cent sure he went in (to the net). So you trust your players.
After a lengthy video review, officials determined the goal was good. The Canadians did not receive a late-game penalty because officials said the review was “inconclusive.”
The Canadians dominated the second period, outscoring the Finns 20-5 and taking a 5-1 lead.
McTavish gave his country their second power-play goal of the game 16:17 into the period after Finn Rubin Rafkin was called off for interference.
Zellweger sent a pass to the Anaheim Ducks prospect from inside the blue line and McTavish uncorked a pinpoint shot that flew over the side of Merilainen’s shoulder.
Thirty-one seconds into the second, Canada took a 4-1 lead after the Finnish keeper missed a Joshua Roy shot.
Greig slid down on one knee to put the rebound in the back of the net with his third goal of the tournament.
Canada entered the first intermission with a 3-1 lead after a late goal from Finland.
A group of players battled for the puck behind the Canadian net and Finland’s Kalle Vasisanen found it. He sent a pass to Helenius in the high hash marks and the LA Kings prospect got a shot over Garland’s shoulder with 57 seconds left in the period.
Bedard memorably scored his third goal of the tournament 17:19 from the first.
Canada were locked in their own area for a long time, but the 17-year-old phenom showed no signs of exhaustion as he picked up a cross pass from McTavish at the blue line and raced into the face-off circle.
He then snatched a searing shot past Merilainen, slamming the puck inside the crossbar to make it 3-0.
A power play shot made Canada’s lead 2-0 midway through the first period after Helenius was called for slashing.
Greig’s shot ricocheted off Merilainen’s pad, but Foerester was in position to push the rebound off the top of the slot as he slid past the net.
Finland got off to a good start, edging the hosts 4-0 in the first five minutes of the game.
It was Canada who opened the scoring, however, 6:21 into the first.
Defender Zellweger fired a long bomb from inside the blue line and Othmann hit it past Merilainen.
The play was reviewed for a potential high stick, but the goal – Othmann’s second of the tournament – was ruled good after officials reviewed the video.
The preliminary round ended on Monday night with Group B Sweden (3-1-0) claiming a 4-2 win over Germany (2-2-0).
Sweden will face Latvia (1-2-1) in the quarter-finals on Wednesday while Germany will face Finland.
Defending champions USA (4-0-0) also went undefeated in the preliminary round and will face Czechia (1-2-1), the country commonly known as the Czech Republic, in the quarter-finals.
The semi-finals are scheduled for Friday and the medal games are on Saturday.
REMARKS: McTavish leads the tournament with 13 points (seven goals, six assists). … Canada outscored their opponents 27-7 in the preliminary round. … The 2022 tournament is taking place in August after the initial event was canceled on Dec. 29 after just four days, as rising COVID-19 cases among players and officials forced matches to be cancelled.