CANADA BLANKS FINLAND, WILL FACE RUSSIA FOR WJC GOLD
JASON LA ROSE
OSTRAVA, Czech Republic – Joel Hofer (Winnipeg, Man./Portland, WHL) was spectacular in a 32-save shutout, Alexis Lafrenière (Saint-Eustache, Que./Rimouski, QMJHL) scored twice and Canada’s National Junior Team took charge early in a 5-0 semifinal win over Finland on Saturday at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship.
The Canadians will face Russia on Sunday (1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT), one win from their 18th World Juniors gold.
Connor McMichael (Ajax, Ont./London, OHL), Lafrenière and Jamie Drysdale (Toronto, Ont./Erie, OHL) struck in a span of 2:07 very early in the first period, giving Canada all the offence it would need before the game was four minutes old.
McMichael finished with a goal and an assist, while Aidan Dudas (Parry Sound, Ont./Owen Sound, OHL) and Barrett Hayton (Peterborough, Ont./Arizona, NHL) chipped in with two helpers apiece.
It took just 1:48 for McMichael to open the scoring; his quick shot deflected off a Finnish stick and beat goaltender Justus Annunen over the glove after good work from Dudas down low.
Lafrenière doubled the advantage at 3:05, taking a short pass from Nolan Foote (Kelowna, B.C./Kelowna, WHL) and going upstairs on the backhand, and Drysdale walked in off the blue-line and went blocker side on Annunen only 50 seconds after that.
Ty Dellandrea (Port Perry, Ont./Flint, OHL) added one more before the end of the opening frame, swatting in a loose puck after Dudas had poked it away from Annunen.
Despite the huge advantage on the scoreboard, Hofer was arguably the best Canadian early; he made 16 saves in the first period, including a huge right-pad stop on Joonas Oden on a late power play.
Lafrenière added his second goal of the game and fourth of the tournament on the power play late in the second period, lasering a wrist shot past Annunen on the short side.
Canada guided the win home in a scoreless third period, allowing just seven shots on goal.
Hofer became the first Canadian goaltender to post a shutout in the semifinals or later since Justin Pogge kept the Finns and Russians goalless in the semifinals and gold medal game in 2006.
Following the game, Hayton, Lafrenière and Liam Foudy (Scarborough, Ont./London, OHL) were named Canada’s top three players of the tournament, as selected by the coaches.
The IIHF World Junior Championship returns to Canadian ice next year when Edmonton and Red Deer, Alta., host the 2021 World Juniors. Fans have until 11:59 p.m. MT on Jan. 5 to sign up for the Priority Draw for their chance to purchase tickets in both cities. Visit HockeyCanada.ca/Tickets for more information.