It's Rask vs. Pogge

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 2:14 PM ET

VANCOUVER -- Tuukka Rask will get another crack at Canada tonight and he has himself to thank.

In the best goaltending performance in recent memory at the world junior championship, Rask made 53 saves as Finland beat Sweden 1-0 in overtime last night, propelling the Finns to a clash with Canada in a semi-final.

"We have a lot of confidence for this game now," Rask, the Maple Leafs' first-round pick in 2005, said after the quarter-final. "We really think that we have a chance to beat the Canadians."

Rask will get a second chance to beat Justin Pogge, also a Leafs prospect. If both continue develop as they have recently, Leafs fans could very well see tonight the future of the club's goaltending in one package.

Canada beat Finland 5-1 in the round-robin on Boxing Day and had the Finns running scared before the game was five minutes old. But Canada coach Brent Sutter was playing it safe after watching Rask's heroics at GM Place.

"It is irrelevant what happened," Sutter said. "I don't know what they did or didn't do in the first game. I am sure they will be ready.

"We are not going to change our philosophy and the way we need to play. It has gotten us this far, and we are not going to all of a sudden go a different route."

The Canadian players said earlier yesterday they didn't care who they would face. Sutter has them thinking as one, and what they were saying mirrored his thoughts.

This is not to say the Canadians were an over-confident bunch following practice. But they realize if they stay on the course they've been on, they should be successful. With a perfect 4-0 record, Canada's relentless style has worked.

"If we get off the game plan and go our own way, we'll be in trouble," Steve Downie said. "(Sutter) has made it clear how he wants it to be since Day 1. We still have two more mountains to climb and we can't really celebrate anything yet."

If Canada wins, it will play the winner of the other semi-final between Russia and the United States. If it loses, it will not participate in the gold-medal game for the first time since 2001, when it won bronze in Moscow.

There have been a few on-ice chinks in Canada's armour, such as taking pointless stick penalties. But not many predicted that Canada was going to make it through the initial stages of the tournament without a loss. Each game becomes bigger than the one before it, which Sutter has been hammering into the players' heads.

Pogge called the win against the U.S. on Saturday the biggest game of his life. But that sentiment lasted for just a couple of days.

"Every game in this tournament has been the biggest of my life, but it just keeps on getting bigger and bigger," said Pogge, who likely will be with the Toronto Marlies of the AHL next season.

"I don't know if you get used to (the pressure), but you learn to deal with it a lot better."


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