Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Big game, big rink, big pressure

Canada moves under spotlight for today's semi against Finns

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MALMO, Sweden -- Canada has moved into the big rink and goalie Zach Fucale expects big pressure will come with it at the world junior hockey championship.

The Canadian squad, which has been based at the smaller, 5,800-seat Isstadion facility since the start of the tournament, held its first practice Friday at the 11,618-seat Malmo Arena.

The snazzy, modern venue will be where Canada faces Finland in semifinal action today (TSN, noon). The winner will face either Sweden or Russia in the tournament finale Sunday.

"The stakes are getting higher and higher and guys will be battling harder," said Fucale. "At this level, every detail counts.

"Everyone will be killing themselves for the win."

Canada will be looking to erase the memory of last year's semifinal loss to the United States in Ufa, Russia. That resulted in the Canadians not winning a medal in this event for the first time since 1998.

Canada faces a Finnish side that hasn't won a medal in eight years, although the squad reached the tournament semifinals two years ago.

The Finns, who overcame a 3-1 deficit to beat the Czech Republic 5-3 in the quarter-finals, are a dangerous team. They not only have a top goalie in Juuse Saros but some dandy snipers led by Chicago Blackhawks prospect Teuvo Teravainen, who has nine assists and is plus-7 in five games.

Finland also boasts defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen, on loan from the Buffalo Sabres.

Canadian coach Brent Sutter isn't taking the Finns lightly.

"I see a hard-working team, a team that's very structured, a team that's going to play some North American hockey," said Sutter. "They're a gritty group.

"They've been getting decent goaltending. They've got three forwards on their team that are as good as any forwards in this tournament. They're going to come hard and we have to be ready for it."

Canada beat Finland twice in exhibition games this year, once in the summer at Lake Placid, N.Y., and again Dec. 20 in Sweden, where they dominated the final two periods after Fucale gave up two questionable goals in the first.

The Finns are confident they can pull off an upset.

"We have a good team and we have a good chance to win," said Saros. "We're going to do a prevent style to get that game.

"We're going to have good team spirit and our power play's pretty good. I think those things will be important."

And he expects a physical game, especially around his net.

"They like to play in the corners and they come to the goal -- three, four players come to the goal -- so I have to be awake," he said.

Actually, the Finnish power play has registered just four goals in 22 chances (18.1 per cent). But two key players -- Ristolainen (flu) and Artturi Lehkonen (leg injury) -- each missed two games before returning to face the Czechs.

Finland's penalty kill has been impressive, allowing only one goal on 21 chances (95.2 per cent).

Canada's power play has clicked on 7-of-24 chances (29.1 per cent).

Sutter has stressed discipline, which got away from his team when it took three minor penalties in the third period of a 4-1 win over Switzerland in the quarter-finals.

Canada earned the "easier" route to the final when it beat the Americans in the preliminary round to take first place in its group. But the team can't afford to waste that with an upset loss against the Finns.

Sutter is underlining concentrating on one game at a time.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 4, 2014 C1

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