International Ice Hockey Federation

Reinhart rocks Finland

Reinhart rocks Finland

Canada perfect, top line combines for 6 points

Published 29.12.2014 23:33 GMT-5 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Reinhart rocks Finland
MONTREAL, CANADA - DECEMBER 29: Canada's Sam Reinhart #23 gets the puck past Finland's Juuse Saros #31 to score Team Canada's first goal of the game during preliminary round action at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Sam Reinhart’s considered one of the world’s smartest U20 forwards, and he showcased his savvy with two goals in Canada’s 4-1 win over Finland on Monday.

The 19-year-old Buffalo Sabres prospect's line with Max Domi and Anthony Duclair has been clicking since the exhibition games, a big reason why Canada has garnered nine points at the Bell Centre so far. Duclair had a goal and an assist, while Domi added two helpers.

"We were happy with our performance and the win," said Reinhart. "We're taking what's there and reading the play nicely."

Captain Curtis Lazar scored Canada's other goal.

"This game was definitely a step above," said Lazar. "We expect that. Each game in this tournament is going to get tougher and more intense. I like that we answered."

Fans of the host nation were eager for some revenge on Finland after last year’s 5-1 semi-final defeat, and they got it. The seven returning players from last year’s Canadian team had to feel pretty good about the result too.

Canada now takes a perfect record into its ever-popular New Year’s Eve battle with the United States. At stake: first place in Group A and preferential seeding for the cross-over quarter-finals on Friday.

"It’s obviously a classic," said Canadian goalie Zach Fucale. "Every year we wait for that game. It’s going to be a great game also. There’s no doubt about it. There’s a lot of rivalry between these two countries, and we’re excited about it. But we still have some time to think about it, get prepared, and rest in order to have a good performance on the 31st."

The Finns remain winless after previous losses to both the United States (in a shootout) and Slovakia. They matched up decently with Canada in the physical department, but the defending champions have struggled to score in Montreal, with just three goals in three games. If this trend continues, coach Hannu Jortikka’s crew won't be defending another title at next year's tournament in Helsinki.

This game featured the same two goalies who played in that semi-final clash in Malmo, Sweden. Fucale faced heavy criticism after making 18 saves on 22 shots there, but this new member of the QMJHL's Quebec Remparts certainly got the job done here versus Finland's Juuse Saros. Final shots favoured Canada 36-28.

Finnish captain Artturi Lehkonen got his first goal of the tournament for Finland. The Finns now face a must-win situation against Germany on New Year's Eve for the last quarter-final berth in Group A.

"Now we can much character this team has," said Lehkonen. "If we bounce back and beat Germany, we can become stronger from this experience. We’ll be a stronger team when we face Sweden or Russia, whoever we face."

Coach Benoit Groulx's squad got the first power play when Finnish blueliner Atte Makinen high-sticked Fredrik Gauthier behind the Finnish  net, and they clicked almost immediately. Reinhart tipped Shea Theodore’s centre point drive off Saros’s left point and then tucked in his own rebound at 5:32.

The teams proceeded to trade end-to-end rushes, and the non-stop action was the finest yet at the Bell Centre. Young power forwards like Finland’s Hintz and Canada’s Jake Virtanen showcased their moves. On perhaps the best chance, Domi couldn’t beat Saros on a mid-period breakaway.

Reinhart went off for tripping Aleksi Mustonen in the Finnish zone with 4:48 left in the first. Despite some solid pressure, Finland’s power play couldn’t cash in – the same problem it’s had all tournament.

"We got shots to the net, but we still should score more," Lehkonen said. "It’s not satisfying that we have been playing a lot of power play but haven’t scored any goals. It’s a hard situation."

The crowd hollered when Finnish star defenceman Julius Honka tried to lay the body on Canadian power forward Nick Ritchie and simply bounced off, putting an exclamation point on a good first period for the red Maple Leaf boys.

Canada opened the second period with more good chances, and Saros had to be alert to deny Nick Paul on a break, as well as the ever-shifty Nic Petan.

Nearing the five-minute mark, Domi waltzed into the slot and zinged one off the post. Saros beautifully came over to deny Connor McDavid’s set-up of captain Curtis Lazar on a 2-on-1.

Reinhart made it 2-0 at 13:34, rushing to the net and converting a beautiful Duclair feed with a backhanded tip that sailed over Saros’s blocker.

The Finns cut the deficit to 2-1 with 1:34 left in the second. It was the first time Canada's allowed a goal at these World Juniors. Canadian defenceman Samuel Morin flubbed an outlet pass and Lehkonen stole the puck, launching a bad-angle shot on Fucale and then putting in his own rebound.

"I planned on shooting five-hole," Lehkonen explained. "I love to shoot five-hole. It’s my favourite place. It didn’t go in the first time, so I got the rebound and shot it in."

Despite another Finnish power play with Darnell Nurse off for interfering with Mikko Rantanen in the third period, the blue-and-white team still couldn't find the range. And that proved fatal.

Duclair gave Canada a 3-1 lead at 11:15, roofing a Domi rebound from the goal line.

Lazar made it 4-1 on the man advantage with 5:35 left, charging to the net after Josh Morrisey fired a blast at Saros and shoving the puck under the goalie's right pad.

"A little Superman action," Lazar joked. "There was a loose puck there. I saw it, and I thought, 'Well, I know he’s going to fall on it.' It just happened to find its way in."

The crowd enjoyed the impending victory, singing "Olé, Olé, Olé" in traditional Montreal fashion. Virtanen and Alex Lintuniemi scuffled in the corner after the big Finnish blueliner took a run at Lazar.

Last year, when Finland eliminated Canada from gold medal contention, captain Teuvo Teravainen led the attack with two goals and an assist. The heady playmaker, who led the 2014 World Juniors with 15 points, has moved on to North American pro hockey with the Chicago Blackhawks organization. Unfortunately for the Finns, there’s no one here who seems capable of making up for his lost point-producing abilities.

The Canadians, meanwhile, have lived up to their advance billing, and look like the team to beat. But there's still lots of hockey to be played.

"Our whole team is getting better, and that’s a good sign," said Domi. "In a tournament, you want to go on the incline as opposed to the decline. We’re happy with our effort tonight and the previous two games, but that’s behind us now. We’ve just got to get ready for the Americans."


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