The goal at the start of this tournament was simple: Whatever it takes, get back to the Gold Medal Game and defend the title. Claude Julien’s team had a couple hiccups along the way, most notably a 3-2 loss to Denmark in the round robin, but played their finest game of the tournament so far yesterday in a dominating 6-1 victory over Czechia.
Despite yet again giving up the first goal of the game, the Canadians scored late in the first, then added three in the second to put this one out of reach. Their physical play and relentless checking frustrated the Czechs into numerous bad penalties, and it was surprising to see NHL vets like David Krejci and David Pastrnak lose their composure so easily.
They got a massive game from Seattle Kraken goaltender Chris Dreidger, who made a number of huge saves, including stopping Pastrnak on a penalty shot. The top line of Dylan Cozens, Pierre-Luc Dubois and Drake Batherson had another big game for Canada, combining for six points. Cozens, who scored the tying goal in the last minute of the first period, added his second of the game late in the third.
Their opponents will be somewhat familar, as for the third straight time, they’ll meet Finland in the gold medal game. The host Finns punched their ticket to the finals with a 4-3 win over the USA. The Americans got goals from former Canucks Nate Schmidt and Adam Gaudette, and will play today against the Czechs for the bronze medal. Joel Armia had the GWG for Finland, who had previously failed to medal as host nation eight times. Can they avenge last year’s loss to Canada in front of their home fans?
The Canadian power play has been a huge part of their success, going 10 for 29 in the rournament so far. They’ll be in tough against a Finnish team that has yet to surrender a goal on the penalty kill, though they’ve taken just 16 penalties in their 9 games so far. Something has to give in this one, and if the Canadians can breakdown the Finns impressive PK, it will go a long way to helping them repeat as champions.