FINNS SCORE FIVE UNANSWERED, BEAT RED IN U17 SEMIFINALS
JASON LA ROSE
SAINT JOHN, N.B. – Veeti Korkalainen tipped in the game-winning goal in the final minute of the second period, and Finland scored the final five goals to down Canada Red 5-2 on Friday and advance to the gold medal game at the 2018 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
The Finns, who will face Russia for gold on Saturday night (7:30 p.m. AT, TSN), are into the final for the first time since they lost to Ontario in 1995. (Coincidentally, that was the only other year the tournament was hosted in New Brunswick.)
Kasper Puutio was the lone Finnish skater to record multiple points, earning a pair of assists, while Joel Blomqvist finished with 29 saves to record the win between the pipes.
The Canadian penalty kill was responsible for the opening goal; Matthew Maggio (Tecumseh, Ont./Ottawa, OHL) found Kyle McDonald (Ottawa, Ont./Windsor, OHL) alone in front, and he went back against Blomqvist’s momentum for a shorthanded goal and a 1-0 lead.
Evan Vierling (Aurora, Ont./Flint, OHL) pushed the lead to two less than five minutes into the second period when his rebound bounced off a Finnish skate in front and squeezed through Blomqvist, but that would be it for offence from Red.
Luka Nyman got the comeback started just over three minutes after the Vierling goal, blocking a shot at his own blue-line and racing the other way before going up and over the blocker of Canadian netminder Will Cranley (Peterborough, Ont./Ottawa, OHL), and Valtteri Kamaranta finished a pretty set-up from Topi Niemelä at 16:06 to tie the game.
Korkalainen sent the Finns to the dressing room with their first lead, getting his stick on a shot from Puutio with just 46 seconds left in the middle frame.
After managing just four shots on goal in the second period Red ramped up the offence in the third, directing 16 shots at Blomqvist, but none could beat the Finnish puck-stopper.
Iivari Säkkinen added insurance five minutes into the final stanza, roofing a shot over Cranley from in tight, and Aatu Räty potted a last-minute empty-net goal to provide the final margin of victory.
Red will have to bounce back quickly if it hopes to leave the Maritimes with a medal; it takes on Sweden in the bronze medal game Saturday afternoon (2:30 p.m. AT, TSN).