First big test

Canada's Ryan Getzlaf, from Regina, arrives for the team's practice in Grand Forks, N.D.,...

Canada's Ryan Getzlaf, from Regina, arrives for the team's practice in Grand Forks, N.D., Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2004. Canada plays Finland Thursday at the World Junior Hockey Championships.(CP PHOTO/Ryan Remiorz)

JIM CRESSMAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 2:21 PM ET

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Canada faces its real first real challenge today at the world junior hockey championship. Its game with Finland is for first place in group B.

Canada is 3-0, Finland 2-1, and a win or a tie sends Canada directly to a semifinal Sunday. A loss and Canada plays a quarter-final Saturday.

The Finns showed yesterday they're for real. Down 4-1 to Sweden after two periods, they scored four times in the third to win 5-4 in Thief River Falls, Minn.

Canada beat Finland 6-0 in an exhibition game in Winnipeg 10 days ago, but forward Clarke MacArthur said no one should read anything into that.

"I think they were missing a couple of players in the exhibition game we played against them, but they've got good skill and we're going to definitely have to stay disciplined," said MacArthur, who plays with the WHL's Medicine Hat Tigers.

"They have a good power play (scoring two power-play goals 10 seconds apart yesterday). I think they're a pretty solid team overall. We had a good game with them last time, but we're going to have to bring our A game for sure."

Goalie Jeff Glass of the Kootenay Ice will be back in net after Rejean Beauchemin of the Prince Albert Raiders was between the pipes for the 9-0 rout of Germany Tuesday.

And Canada will have captain Michael Richards back after he left Tuesday's game in the second period with a suspected charley horse.

Richards, from the Kitchener Rangers, forward Jeremy Colliton of the Raiders and defenceman Cam Barker of the Tigers did not practise yesterday. Richards injured his right leg in a collision late in the first period against Germany and after killing a penalty to start the second was sent to the dressing room to get iced. Head coach Brent Sutter said it was strictly precautionary.

"I was more or less just keeping him off the ice today just to get him as close to 100 per cent as we can," Sutter said yesterday.

Colliton, on the shelf with a knee injury from training camp, has been limited to one period here. Sutter doesn't know if Colliton will play again in the tournament.

Barker has the flu.

Belarus 5, U.S. 3

Andrei Kastsitsyn scored a goal and added two assists on last night as Belarus stunned the defending champion.

It's the first time Belarus has won a round-robin game at the tournament. They've previously beat France and Kazakhstan in relegation play.

Alexei Efimenko, Vadzim Karaha, Alexei Savin and Siarhei Kukushkin also scored for Belarus (1-3-0).

Phil Kessel, Drew Stafford and Mike Brown replied for the U.S. (2-1-0), which got shaky goaltending from starter Cory Schneider and his replacement, Al Montoya, but can still clinch first place in Group B with a win over the Czech Republic tonight.


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