EDMONTON—They say a human takes less than four-hundredths of a second to blink. Connor Bedard’s shot is probably faster than that.
Blink and you missed how quickly Bedard’s shot from the half-boards got behind Finnish goalie Leevi Meriläinen. And it came at the end of a shift.
“I was on for a while (but) I wasn’t too tired,” said Bedard. “I saw there was a chance. I got it, I shot it, it went in.”
The oohs and ahhs from the Canadian crowd at Rogers Place lasted longer, with the “did you see that?” reactions signalling they’d yet again seen something special from a Canadian hockey player.
“He’s just, I don’t know,” said Canadian captain Mason McTavish, running out of ways to describe the 17-year old. “He’s elite. His shot is crazy. He doesn’t even need that much power. I saw him, gave him the puck. I was tired, so I got off. He had a lot speed. It was impressive.”
Brennan Othmann, the other winger on the line, didn’t see the shot as he also headed for the bench: “I heard the ping and then I looked up and cellied (celebrated). So I figured it was something special, like always. Great shot.”
This summertime makeup tournament may not have caught the imagination of fans in Edmonton or across the country, but the Canadian players are doing what is expected of a hockey team wearing the red maple leaf. That is, whatever it takes to beat the other team, sometimes in spectacular style.
Bedard has been the talk of the tournament, a phenom doing phenomenal things, but he hasn’t been alone. In fact, Kent Johnson’s game-winning Michigan goal on Saturday against the Czechs might have been more highlight worthy, but only because it was more easily viewable; Bedard’s shot was a bullet.
“I knew when he went down the rink he was going to rip it, bar down,” said Canadian goalie Dylan Garand. “I’ve seen it in practice a few times the past few weeks. It was a big goal for us.”
Canada swept all four games of the round robin and set up a quarterfinal Wednesday with Switzerland.
“It’s an elimination game. Anything can happen,” said McTavish.
The Finns were not to be taken lightly. They won both Olympic and world championship gold. And the junior team is looking for its fourth gold medal since 2014. Canada has three in the same time frame.
“At the moment, we are on the same level,” said Finnish coach Antti Pennanen. “We have a good confidence. We have lots of good coaches and co-operation between the club coaches and national team coaches. It’s working well. Hockey is one of the biggest sports in Finland. We can get lots of talented athletes.”
It was a convincing win across the board. Outside of the opening five minutes, when Finland carried the play and led 4-0 on shots, Canada dominated most of the first two periods, then Canada’s penalty kill carried the third.
Canada’s first shot went in. Othmann tipped an Olen Zellweger attempt for the 1-0 lead, then Tyson Foerster banged in a Ridly Greig rebound. Bedard’s goal was followed by a late marker by Finland, with Samuel Helenius beating Garand. Greig and McTavish scored in the second for a 5-1 Canadian lead.
Then things got a little weird.
Finland came to life in the third period, aided by a parade of penalties taken by the Canadians on an off night by the game officials.
Finland scored early in the third, with Leafs prospect Topi Niemelä’s shot deflected by winger Joakim Kemell. The Canadians challenged, arguing the play should have been called dead because the puck had hit the netting above the glass. The refs had trouble with their replay monitor, though, and ultimately let the call on the ice stand. But they didn’t assess Canada a delay-of-game penalty for the failed challenge, which confused the Finns.
Then the game got chippy, bad blood boiling over into big hits. The biggest saw Canada’s Will Cuylle ejected and assessed five minutes, giving the Finns a two-man advantage for a portion of it. Cuylle went knee-on-knee with Juuso Mäenpää.
Robie Jarventie eventually scored on one of Finland’s many power plays, with 3:37 to go and William Dufour in the box for tripping. Dufour, though, scored an empty-netter with 1:47 left to make up for it.
“Finland is a great team, and we knew coming into this their power play was ridiculous,” said McTavish. “The fact our power play stood up there with one of the best power plays in the tournament was huge. It was a great measuring stick to see where we’re at.”
- Canada scored first in three of its four games.
- McTavish leads Canada in goals (seven) and points (13).
- Garand managed a first-period shot on net against Meriläinen.
- The Americans won Pool B and will play the Czechs in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.
- Based on superior goal differential, the Canadians ended the preliminary round as the top seed, which will only matter in the medal round.
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