By Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press on December 26, 2023.
GOTHENBURG, Sweden – Nate Danielson had a goal and an assist as Canada defeated Finland 5-2 on Tuesday to open the world junior hockey championship.
Macklin Celebrini and Owen Allard also scored for the Canadians, who got 23 saves from Mathis Rousseau in a Boxing Day victory to open the annual under-20 tournament. Matthew Poitras and Maveric Lamoureux scored into the empty net. Lamoureux also added an assist for a two-point performance.
Aleksanteri Kaskimaki and Jere Lassila replied for Finland. Niklas Kokko made 25 stops.
Canada, which is the two-time defending gold medallist and looking for its first three-peat since 2009, has just one returning player from the 2023 event in Halifax.
The United States and hosts Sweden are viewed as favourites ahead of the Canadians by many observers – with the primary reason being the talent left at home.
Canada is minus five players currently in the professional ranks, including Connor Bedard after he rewrote the national record book last year in Halifax, while defenceman Tristan Luneau, who has played six games with the Anaheim Ducks this season, made the roster before having to be hospitalized with a viral infection.
The North Americans opened the scoring with 3:36 left in Tuesday’s first period when Lamoureux took a pass from defence partner Denton Mateychuk and fired a shot that went off Danielson and dribbled over Kokko’s goal line.
The Finnish netminder made a number of good saves earlier in the period, including three off the stick of Matthew Savoie and another from Poitras.
But Rousseau – twice passed over in the NHL draft – had Canadian fans out of their seats moments before Danielson’s icebreaker when he stretched across to rob Lenni Hameenaho with a terrific glove stop.
Jordan Dumais hit the post on a breakaway chance that would have it 2-0 in the second.
Allard, another undrafted player on the roster, eventually pushed Canada in front by two with 6:19 left in the period when his shot off a Danielson feed also found iron before ricocheting in off Kokko’s skate on a sequence that required video review.
Finland finally got one past Rousseau on a power play 2:15 later when Kaskimaki tipped a point shot upstairs inside Scadinavium arena.
Celebrini – the 17-year-old presumptive top pick at the 2024 NHL draft – hit the crossbar seven minutes into the third, but wouldn’t be denied moments later when he pushed the puck over the line on a scramble at 6:38.
Poitras iced it into an empty net with 2:26 left in regulation before Lassila got a consolation goal with 64 seconds remaining.
Lamoureux scored a second empty netter in the dying seconds.
Canada is in Group A with the Finns, Swedes, Latvia and Germany. Group B consists of the U.S., Czechia, Slovakia, Switzerland and Norway.
Thousands of Canadians have descended on this city of roughly 600,000 on Sweden’s west coast. The country is hosting the event for the seventh time, and the first since 2014 in Malmo.
Canada took six penalties, including four tripping calls, one for hooking and one for boarding. Finland was whistled for one two-minute infraction for hooking in the first and one for roughing late in the third.
FINALLY ON SWEDISH TIME
Poitras joined Canada last week after playing 27 NHL games this season. The 19-year-old Boston Bruins centre said it took a while to adjust to the time change. “I definitely feel a lot better,” Poitras said. “The first day I got here I hadn’t slept. I (was) running on adrenalin – actually felt pretty good on the ice. The next few days, it felt like I was a zombie.”
Canada blueliner Ty Nelson didn’t take part in Monday’s practice – the team’s official picture was delayed as a result – because of travel issues. The Seattle Kraken draft pick was cut from selection camp, but added to the group over the weekend along with Jorian Donovan after Luneau and fellow defenceman Tanner Molendyk (wrist) were ruled out.
Canada faces Latvia on Wednesday, while Finland takes on Germany.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 20,6 2023.
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