Canada defeated Finland 5-2 to begin defense of its World Junior Championship title at the Scandinavium Arena in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Canada’s Matisse Rousseau and Finland’s Niklas Kokko made the match interesting and it was a fierce battle for goals. It was a shaky goal that gave Canada a 1-0 lead in the first inning, and Nate Danielson took the lead with a shot from behind. Linemate Owen Allard made it 2-0, but Aleksanteri Kaskimäki cut the lead in half at 35:56.
The game remained close, but Macklin Celebrini was able to restore Canada’s two-goal lead in the third period. It took a second look, but he managed to slip the puck under Cocco’s right foot for a 3-1 lead. Both teams would trade goals late in the game, but in the end it didn’t matter as Celebrini’s goal was the deciding goal.
The top players from both teams are as follows.
#30 Matisse Rousseau, G (undrafted): There were questions about Canada’s goaltending heading into this game, especially after Rousseau’s two below-average performances during the pre-tournament. But what his big glove said on the play right before Canada’s first goal helped turn the tide, and Rousseau looked great for the rest of the game. Canada will need more of that effort if it is to win this tournament.
#13 Maverick Lamoureux, D (Arizona Coyotes): From his big hit early on to the shot that led to Danielson’s first goal, Lamoureux was Canada’s most notable defenseman of the game. It helps that he’s 6 feet 7 inches tall, but he played a great two-way game and did a great job of getting in everyone’s way. That was his game and the empty netter was a bonus.
#21 Owen Allard, LW (undrafted): Allard scored Canada’s second goal of the game, capping off a great period in which Allard hit three shots. He thrived on the penalty kill as expected, but also played on the second unit of the power play as a net-front presence. Allard has been one of Canada’s most talented players since selection camp began in Oakville, but this felt like his best effort to date.
#9 Nate Danielson, RW (Detroit Red Wings): Danielsson scored the first goal of the match, but it hit him in the butt. Instead, what stood out to me was Danielson’s smart decision-making with the puck and the way he moves players out of position. You can see why the Red Wings were trying to keep Danielson on the Opening Day roster. Danielson seems very mature for his age. He gives a special shout out to Owen Beck, who was the glue that held Canada’s energy line together.
#15 Matthew Poitras, C (Boston Bruins): This first period alone shows why Poitras is an NHLer. He was a heads-up playmaker, finding his linemates with ease and seemed to create smart plays throughout. His hands were quick, his shots deceptive, and he was arguably Canada’s best player early in the match. Poitras hit an empty-netter with over two minutes left, but I liked his play better in the first half today.
#30 Niklas Kokko, G (Seattle Kraken): Cucco is the main reason Canada didn’t abandon this. He made a big glove stop against Poitras in his first game and then, despite allowing two goals in his first 40, still managed to steal the show in net. Kokko showed at the World Junior Summer Showcase what he can do against Finland when he is at the top of his game. This felt like one of his strongest efforts in international competition.
#4 Artu Kalki, D (Las Vegas Golden Knights): Kalki improved once the Finns figured out how to use him on the power play. His point shot led to Aleksanteri Kaskimäki’s 2-1 goal, and Kalki’s decision to shoot the puck low seemed intentional. Kalki is gifted with the puck and I wouldn’t be surprised if he becomes one of the best defensive players in the tournament if this event fully materializes.
#9 Konsta Helenius, C (2024 NHL Draft): Celebrini scored for Canada, but I personally preferred Helenius’ two-way game between two stars of the 2024 NHL Draft. He made some good defensive plays and brought an energy from him that we’re used to. Even though Helenius didn’t get any recognition on the scoresheet, I still thought he did well for an underage player.
#29 Leni Hamenaho, RW (New Jersey Devils): Haminaho is an important part of Finland’s attack and was busy, taking four shots in the first two periods. He was excellent around the net, but also created chances in open space.
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