Canada eliminated by Finland in WJC quarterfinals

Canada WJ coach Dave Lowry speaks to media following their 6-5 quarterfinal loss to Finland, about how well the team played in a close game and how proud he was of their effort.

HELSINKI — Mackenzie Blackwood said it all in a single expression.

When asked how he felt about the wild 6-5 quarter-final loss to Finland that eliminated Canada from the world junior hockey championship Saturday, the goaltender took a deep breath, exhaled, then loudly swore.

"Terrible," said Blackwood after a pause. "It’s the worst thing ever, losing.

"I hate it. Just gotta learn from it and move on."

Mitch Marner’s two power-play goals in the third period weren’t enough as Canada finished lower than fourth at the annual event for the first time since 1998. Canada’s record in the preliminary round — a win, a shootout win and two regulation losses — left it sixth in the final standings.

"We could have definitely won gold," said Blackwood. "We get a different outcome from this game and it’s just another one-game elimination which is the tough part of this tournament."

Travis Konecny, Dylan Strome and Lawson Crouse also scored for Canada. Blackwood made 23 saves.

The Canadian players will make the trek back to their respective clubs Sunday while host Finland will prepare to face Sweden in Monday’s semifinal.

Penalties were a problem for Canada against Finland, but they’d been an issue in the preliminary round too. Canada took nine penalties in the quarter-final, including four in the third period.

In its final preliminary round game, Canada was penalized 10 times in a 5-2 loss to Sweden.

"I think all tournament it was our downfall," said Marner, who had four goals and two assists in the event. "We were just playing a little too aggressive. It’s a lot of stick work and stuff like that that they call (in international hockey.)

"I think the main issue was trying to stay away from that and we didn’t do that too well."

Strome also finished the tournament with four goals and two assists.

Patrik Laine struck twice for Finland, including the power-play winner with 5:50 remaining. Antti Kalapudas, Aleksi Saarela, Julius Nattinen and Sebastian Aho also scored.

Veini Vehvilainen stopped 9-of-12 shots before being pulled near the midway point of the game. Kaapo Kahkonen turned aside 20 shots in relief.

Canada led 2-0 before Laine scored with 11.3 seconds left in the first. At the second intermission the Canadians trailed 4-3.

Marner tied it 4-4 on a power play early in the third. Captain Bradyen Point passed to Marner as both came down the right side, with Point then going hard to the net. Marner’s shot then bounced past Kahkonen, tucking just inside the far post.

Aho knocked in a rebound just a minute later to put Finland back ahead 5-4.

Marner kept Canada alive with another power-play goal. Point carried the puck behind Finland’s net then skated out to the face-off circle, passing back to Marner as two defenders came in on the Canadian captain. Marner gathered the puck, skated half a step out of the reach of a Finnish defender and snapped a wrist shot into the top corner of Finland’s goal to tie it 5-5.

Three penalties — two to Virtanen and one to Hicketts — cost Canada, with Laine blasting a slapshot into the Canadian net for a 6-5 Finnish lead.

"It hurt, that’s for sure," said defenceman Thomas Chabot. "We took a two-goal lead, they came back, we scored another goal. We showed our character all game long, we never gave up. But when they made it 6-5 with little time left, it’s the one thing we didn’t want to happen. But it’s part of the game.

"We once again took penalties that hurt us."

A penalty cost Canada before the tournament even started. Blackwood missed the club’s first two contests after being suspended eight games by the Ontario Hockey League for slashing an opponent in the shoulder while playing for the Barrie Colts.

Mason McDonald started Canada’s first two games in goal. He lost 4-2 to the United States before beating Denmark 6-1.

"No, I mean, maybe, maybe not," said Blackwood when asked if the suspension affected his play. "But I can’t blame anything on anything like that.

"No, I can’t blame that."

Hartwall Arena presented new challenges Saturday for Canada, which had played all four of its preliminary round games at Helsinki Ice Hall. The 8,200-seat Ice Hall was dominated by Canadian fans during the round robin, while the crowd of over 13,000 at Hartwall was split about 50-50 with competing "Suomi!" and "Let’s Go Canada!" chants throughout the game.

The ice itself was also different. Although the Ice Hall’s rink was larger than a typical NHL ice surface, Hartwall’s is full Olympic size, four metres wider than the Ice Hall’s dimensions. Finland has played all five of its games at Hartwall.

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