After four preliminary games, the Canadian team appears to have found its identity.
“They are a really strong opponent, but we have played our best game so far,” said Dylan Cozens after the Canadian team’s 4-1 win over Finland on Thursday night. “We reloaded hard on the discs and they had a hard time getting out of their zone, all because of our track.”
Cozens scored twice in Canada’s victory over the Finns, ending Group ‘A’ at the Junior Worlds in Edmonton.
With previous games against a small team from Germany and an unimpressive team from Switzerland resulting in defeats, Finland represented Canada’s biggest challenge to date.
In addition to a setback in the third period, Finland had no response to a dominating Canadian squad for much of the night.
“We weren’t ready at the start of the game. Team Canada was very good,” said Finnish coach Antti Pennanen. “They played at high speed and it was a very demanding game for us.”
Devon Levi made 18 saves for Canada (4-0-0-0), who will face the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals at the Junior World Cup on Saturday.
Dylan Holloway and Peyton Krebs also scored goals for Canada.
Brad Lambert scored Finland’s only goal (3-0-0-1). His goal broke Levi’s 106: 29 closing sequence.
Kari Piiroinen made 36 saves for Finland.
Cozens opened the scoring with his fifth goal in the tournament. Canada was 3-on-2 during the attack. Cozens decided to keep him and defeated Piiroinen 1-0 at 3:49 of the first period.
Canada scored in the first five minutes of all four preliminary games in the tournament.
Finland was slow to establish any form of attack. His first shot on goal came at 9:48 of the first half.
Canada overcame Finland 17-1 after 20 minutes, but only led 1-0 after the first period. Canadians have also failed to capitalize on two power-play opportunities.
“I’m not going to lie, I would have loved to be a few goals above,” said Canadian coach Andre Tourigny of the period. “But with 1-0, the only thing I think about is that we have to continue playing that way. Don’t change anything.”
The second period was similar to the first.
Holloway made it 2-0 for Canada by deflecting a shot from Jakob Pelletier. Braden Schneider received the second assist at 6:54.
Krebs gave Canada a 3-0 lead when he rebounded from Bowen Byram’s opening shot. Connor Zary received the second attendance at 12:58.
Canada continued to overtake Finland by defeating them 18-6 after 40 minutes.
Finland had its first power play in the third period, and profited from the opportunity when Lambert’s shot came from Canadian Thomas Harley and beat Levi for a goal. Topi Niemela and Juuso Parssinen provided assists at 5:05.
Finland continued to press as Canada switched to defensive mode to maintain the lead.
Cozens scored his second goal in the game with an empty ball at 18:43 for Canada.
Nicknamed ‘Workhorse from Whitehorse’, Cozens stood out as Canada’s most consistent player at the Youth World Cup. His speed and bidirectional ability helped to carry Canada’s attack. With his captain, Kirby Dach, unavailable for the team after breaking his wrist in the pre-tournament game against Team Russia, Cozens became the leader on the scoreboard and in the locker room.
“He competes and wants, wants to make a difference,” said Tourigny of Cozens. “Now he has the maturity to keep this.”
In addition to some problems in power play (0 out of 5), Canada had a dominant performance that should put the remaining teams on alert. Despite an impressive game against the Finns, there does not appear to be any overconfidence in Canada as they enter the knockout stage.
“The Czech Republic did us a favor by defeating the Russians,” said Tourigny, “they showed us how good they can be.”
NOTES: Canadian striker Alex Newhook left the game early in the second period. Newhook seemed to favor his shoulder after a collision with Finnish defender Eemil Viro in the first period. Newhook returned to the bench for the start of the second period, but returned to the locker room and did not return. An update on Newhook’s status is expected on Friday, according to Tourigny … With Schneider’s help, all skaters in Canada’s squad have scored at least one point.