Early domination propels Canada into WJC final as Russians await


Canada's Ty Dellandrea (18) celebrates with teammates Kevin Bahl (2) Aidan Dudas (25) and Connor McMichael (17) after scoring the fourth goal against Finland during first period semifinal action at the World Junior Hockey Championships on Saturday, January 4, 2020 in Ostrava, Czech Republic. (Ryan Remiorz/CP)

They just didn’t stop coming.

Three goals, two minutes seven seconds.

Before people had a chance to sit down with their super cheap beer at the sold-out Ostravar Arena, the Canadians unleashed an offensive attack that saw them go ahead 3-0 in their semifinal matchup against Finland.

Canada carried that momentum throughout the game and beat the defending champions 5-0 to punch its ticket into Sunday’s gold-medal game against Russia.

The Russians defeated Sweden earlier in the day, 5-4 in overtime, with Ivan Morozov winning it with a wrist shot off the post.

It sets up a hockey rivalry in the final and a rematch of the 2015 gold-medal game when Canada beat Russia for gold in Toronto. Russia’s last gold at the event came in 2011 with a victory over the Canadians.

This won’t be the two countries’ first rodeo in international hockey and each one of their matchups is a memorable one.

Take the preliminary game between the two last week as an example. Russia dominated the Canadians and won 6-0 in a game which featured Canada losing star forward Alexis Lafreniere, changing its starting goalies, Joe Veleno getting suspended one game for a head butt and much more.

Sunday’s final is a new day and should be a different story, especially if the Canadians can keep their scoring touch from Saturday going.

The semifinal against Finland started with Connor McMichael at 1:48 when he got his fourth goal of the tournament with a snap shot from the left circle.

A nice pass from Nolan Foote drew a Finnish defender into the middle before he dished it back to Lafreniere, who lifted a backhand over Annunen’s shoulder just 1:17 later.

And at 3:55, it was incredible patience from draft eligible defenceman Jamie Drysdale as he waited out the Finnish defender to shoot and make it 3-0.

It was a bit of revenge for Canada’s five returning players who were eliminated by Finland in overtime of last year’s quarterfinals.

Now, Canada will vie for its 18th world junior title and first since 2018. Russia, meanwhile, goes for its 14th gold.

Here are some more takeaways from semifinal day at the WJC…

Injury concern

Canadian fans could hear a screaming Barrett Hayton as he went into the boards in pain early in the third period.

Canada’s captain was ridden into the boards by Finland’s Lassi Thomson while jostling for position. He went to the dressing room clutching his left arm.

There was no immediate word on the severity of the injury for the Canadians’ leading scorer, who has been a key player for his country since being loaned by the Arizona Coyotes for the tournament.

The Canadians were already without key defenceman Bowen Byram, the fourth-overall pick at last year’s NHL Draft, as he was sick for the game.

Hofer does it again

Making his fourth straight start, Joel Hofer once again impressed in Canada’s net.

Despite Canada’s strong start, the St. Louis Blues draft pick had to stop 16 shots in the first period alone. None might have been as good as late in the first when he sprawled across the net to make a strong stop with his right leg on a power play for Finland.

And six minutes into the second period, he flashed his glove to squash any chance of an opportunity on a 2-on-1. Hofer then got his blocker on a point-blank chance from Sampo Ranta with 30 seconds left in the second.

He finished the day with 31 saves for the shutout and player of the game honours.

Sandin shines

Every world juniors possesses an elite defenceman, one who stands above the rest an appears ready to log big minutes in the NHL.

This year’s blue-liner is Sweden’s Rasmus Sandin, a prospect of the Toronto Maple Leafs who played six games with the big club earlier this season.

Toronto loaned Sandin to the Swedes for the tournament for its AHL affiliate and he shined throughout the event.

It was no different in the semifinals where he had a pair of goals and two assists. He finished the game by logging 24:38.

Shaky goalies

It wasn’t an ideal start for both Sweden’s Hugo Alnefelt and Russia’s Yaroslav Askarov as both goaltenders let in some weak goals.

Askarov’s glove, an issue in the tournament opener against the Czech Republic, let him down again on an opening goal by Sandin just 16 seconds into the game. Later, he almost let the game become 3-3 as a shot squeaked past him before a defenceman cleared it away.

Alnefelt, meanwhile, let one slide through his five hole on a Russian power play before later going out to play the puck, only to give it right to Russia’s Yegor Sokolov, who put it in an empty net.

Askarov was pulled in the third period after giving up a third power-play goal.

And although Alnefelt would have liked to have the overtime winner back, it was a nice shot by Morozov that went under the goaltender’s glove to win it.

Quick hits

• How about this save by Alnefelt on Kirill Marchenko?

• Alexis Lafreniere finished with two goals in the game and now has four goals and four assists at the tournament. An impressive display for the projected No. 1 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft.

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