Sunday, June 6 | 1 p.m. ET | Riga, Latvia | Gold Medal Game
TV: TSN | Stream: TSN Direct
From the edge of elimination to a shot at gold, Canada’s National Men’s Team will play for a 27th world title at the 2021 IIHF World Championship,
facing off against Finland in a rematch of the 2019 gold medal game.
The Canadians’ playoff chances were on life support late in the preliminary
round, needing at least a point in their finale against the Finns – and a
little bit of help – to reach the quarterfinals. But the stars aligned and
here we are – one game for all the marbles.
Facing a red-hot American team that had won seven in a row and hadn’t
allowed more than two goals in any game, Canada never trailed in
its 4-2 semifinal win. Andrew Mangiapane provided the big goal(s) for the second game in a row
and Darcy Kuemper was terrific in a 36-save performance.
The Canadians started fast in every period, scoring two minutes into the
first period, four minutes into the second and 46 seconds into the third to
move into the final for the fifth time in the last six worlds.
The Finns rode a pair of first-period goals to a 2-1 win over Germany in
their semifinal. Iiro Pakarinen and Hannes Bjorninen scored five minutes
apart late in the middle frame and Jussi Olkinuora did the rest, finishing
with 27 saves to give Finland a chance to defend its 2019 gold medal.
As mentioned, the teams met in the final game of the preliminary round less
than a week ago. Twice the Canadians took the lead and twice Arttu
Ruotsalainen replied for the Finns, including with four minutes to go in
the third period.
In the end it took a shootout to decide, and again it was Ruotsalainen who
struck for Finland; his goal in Round 4 was the winner as the Finns earned
a 3-2 victory. The single point the Canadians earned turned out to be the difference
between a playoff spot and a flight home, and the rest, as they say, is
WHAT TO WATCH
We have one last chance to watch in wonder as Canada’s top line does its
thing in Riga. Despite missing the first three games, Mangiapane is tied
for the tournament lead with seven goals, Connor Brown sits atop the
scoring race with 13 points and Adam Henrique has 10 of his own. They have
been the engine that has driven the Canadian comeback.
And about that comeback … would this be the most unlikely Canadian gold
medal ever? No Canadian team has ever lost its first three games at the
tournament, and since the playoff format began in 1992, no team has ever
started 0-3 and won gold. What a story.
As for Finland, it just keeps rolling along. There’s no one player driving
the bus – Anton Lundell (4-3—7) is the only Finn in the top 30 of
tournament scoring – and it’s finding ways to win despite rarely getting
opportunities on the power play (just 13 in nine games) and scoring on just
7.97% of its shots (which is actually slightly ahead of Canada at 7.69%).
But the Finns will find ways to smother you defensively (they have given up
just 11 goals in nine games, and only five at 5-on-5), and here they are
just one win from going back-to-back.
A LOOK BACK
This is meeting no. 52 between Canada and Finland at the IIHF World
Championship, dating back to 1951. Only Sweden (67 games) has been a more
familiar foe over the years. The Canadians enjoy a 36-13 edge (with two
ties), although the Finns have won the last four meetings.
Included in those first 51 face-offs are four meetings in the gold medal
game. Canada won the first three – it memorably ended its 33-year drought
with a shootout victory in 1994, Rick Nash scored twice to cap an MVP
in 2007 and Cam Talbot posted a 16-save shutout
in 2016 – before the Finns got 43 saves from Kevin Lankinen to win their third
All-time record: Canada leads 36-13-2 (2-2 in OT/SO)
Canada goals: 270
Finland goals: 115