CANADA EDGED IN OT, ELIMINATED IN QUARTER-FINALS AT WJC
JASON LA ROSE
VANCOUVER, B.C. – Michael DiPietro (Amherstburg, Ont./Ottawa, OHL) was absolutely spectacular in a 32-save performance, but Canada’s National Junior Team saw its run at the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship end Wednesday with a 2-1 overtime loss to Finland in the quarter-finals.
Ian Mitchell (Calahoo, Alta./University of Denver, NCHC) scored the lone goal for the Canadians, who were less than a minute away from advancing before the Finns banked in the game-tying goal.
Finnish goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen went to the bench with time ticking away, and the Finns caught a break when Eeli Tolvanen blindly threw the puck off the skate of Aleksi Heponiemi and under the arm of DiPietro to make it 1-1 with 46.4 seconds to go.
“It’s a game of inches,” Mitchell said. “One little bounce or turn of events can put you out of the tournament.”
Canada had a pair of glorious chances to win the game in overtime.
Evan Bouchard (Oakville, Ont./London, OHL) created the first opportunity when he was hooked on a breakaway, but Maxime Comtois (Longueuil, Que./Drummondville, QMJHL) was turned away by Luukkonen on the ensuing penalty shot.
Just minutes later, Noah Dobson (Summerside, P.E.I./Acadie-Bathurst, QMJHL) had his stick shatter on a one-timer with a yawning Finnish goal in front of him.
The Finns turned the puck back up the ice, and a shot from Toni Utunen deflected off a Canadian stick and over the shoulder of DiPietro for the game-winner.
“We played a heck of a hockey game tonight,” said Canadian head coach Tim Hunter. “We are proud of how far [the players] have come, and how much they came together, and how hard they competed. Anybody watching the game would have thought it was one hell of a hockey game.”
It’s the second time in four years the Canadians have been knocked out by Finland in the quarter-finals.
DiPietro and Luukkonen combined for 18 saves in a scoreless first period, but it took Mitchell just 90 seconds to open the scoring in the second; a loose puck bounced onto the stick of the defenceman, who rifled a wrist shot upstairs past the glove of Luukkonen.
That would be it for scoring until the final minute, thanks in large part to DiPietro, a Vancouver Canucks draft pick who had the 17,047 at Rogers Arena chanting his name late in the second period.
“It has been a special time here,” he said of playing in Vancouver. “But I came here with gold in mind, and not getting what you wanted is a tough pill to swallow. The toughest part is going to be saying goodbye to the guys; this has been about team, not about me. It was cool to hear, but not the outcome we wanted.”
Following the game, DiPietro, Comtois and Cody Glass (Winnipeg, Man./Portland, WHL) were named Canada’s top three players of the tournament, as selected by the coaches.