FINNS SHOCK WHITE IN SHOOTOUT, ADVANCE TO U17 SEMIS
JASON LA ROSE
SAINT JOHN, N.B. – Joel Blomqvist finished with 43 saves in regulation and overtime, Roby Järventie scored the shootout winner and Finland upset previously-unbeaten Canada White 4-3 on Thursday afternoon to advance to the semifinals at the 2018 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
The Finns saw a three-goal lead evaporate before Järventie, Aatu Räty and Jesse Seppälä all beat White goaltender Tristan Lennox (Cambridge, Ont./Brantford, OJHL) to send the Nordic nation to the semis for the first time since 2014.
It will face the winner of the Canada Red-United States quarter-final on Friday (time TBD).
Räty got the shootout started with a goal before the next five shooters came up empty. Järventie put the Finns on the brink of a win, but Canadian captain Jake Neighbours (Airdrie, Alta./Edmonton, WHL) kept his team alive. Seppälä finished it one shot later, going five-hole on Lennox to clinch the win.
Both teams came out full throttle, combining for 31 shots in an entertaining first period.
It looked as if the Canadians would open the scoring when its vaunted power play went to work midway through the opening frame, but Blomqvist made five of his 14 stops to keep it scoreless.
Räty broke through for the Finns just shy of the 17-minute mark, crashing the net to knock a rebound past Lennox, and he added a second goal in the dying seconds of the period on another second chance to make it 2-0 after 20 minutes.
Seppälä extended the lead to three just 4:22 into the second period, tucking a loose puck around Lennox, but the Canadian goaltender settled in after that en route to a 35-save performance.
Neighbours took over the rest of the middle frame; he snuck behind the Finnish defence and went five-hole on Blomqvist to get the Canadians on the board, and snapped in a quick shot right off a won face-off to make it a one-goal game after two periods.
The Canadians swarmed Blomqvist in the third, getting chance after chance, but the puck-stopper kept the highest-scoring team from the preliminary round at bay, including a right pad stop off Cole Perfetti (Whitby, Ont./Saginaw, OHL) that ranked as his best of the game.
White finally got even with 55.3 seconds left and Lennox on the bench when Connor McClennon (Wainwright, Alta./Kootenay, WHL) poked in a free puck for his tournament-leading seventh goal.
Finland had the best chance of the 10-minute overtime when Kasper Puutio wired a slap shot off the post behind Lennox, but an entertaining game ultimately needed a shootout to decide it.
The Finnish win marks the fourth year in a row that a fourth-place team has beaten a group winner in the quarter-finals.
Canada White will play for fifth place Friday, against an as-yet-unknown opponent (time TBD).