December 20, 2011
Canadian kids all right
By SCOTT FISHER, QMI Agency
CALGARY - It was far from a work of art.
But for a pre-tournament opener, Team Canada did enough to get the job done.
Boone Jenner, Mark Stone and Brendan Gallagher scored as Canada beat Finland 3-1 Monday night at the Saddledome.
Stone, an Ottawa Senators prospect, said potting the game-winner will give him a boost moving forward.
“It’s good to get on the board early,” the Brandon Wheat Kings star said. “It was the first taste of international hockey for myself, and it’s a fast game.
“So getting confidence early was something I needed to do.”
There was plenty to like: Devante Smith-Pelly and Jenner had plenty of jump.
And there’s plenty for head coach Don Hay & Co. to work on: The powerplay went 0-for-4 and looked disorganized.
But Team Canada showed it can take a slim lead and lock it down.
And holding onto leads is a touchy subject around the Team Canada room after what happened last year when the club gassed a 3-0 lead to Russia in the gold-medal tilt.
Canadian starting goaltender Mark Visentin flashed the leather on a nifty Miro Aaltonen redirection in the slot with a couple minutes remaining.
And Gallagher cashed in on a rebound with 1:39 left to solidify the win.
Canada continues its pre-tournament schedule Thursday in Red Deer against Switzerland before finishing up against Sweden the following night in Edmonton.
Teemu Pulkkinen replied for the Finns, who take on Team USA Wednesday in Edmonton.
Finland starting goaltender Christopher Gibson was on his toes early as he stopped Smith-Pelly’s one-timer from in close and then used the glove to turn aside Mark Scheifele.
Jenner had a great chance to put the Canadians on the board but hit the side of the net on a clearcut breakaway.
Finland made the most of its lone powerplay opportunity in the opening period.
Visentin got a glove on Pulkkinen’s one-timer but not enough, and it trickled over the line.
Jenner finally brought the Canadian fans out of their seats — to the sounds of Chicago Blackhawks’ celebration tune Chealsea Dagger — on a 2-on-2, squeezing a shot between Gibson’s pads.
Stone gave the Canucks their first lead when he buried his own rebound at the 12:35 mark.
Smith-Pelly didn’t hit the scoresheet, but that’s about the only thing he didn’t run over through the opening 40 minutes.
The Anaheim Ducks loaner ran over one Finnish player and then tag-teamed Aleksander Barkov with linemate Scheifele.
On the next shift, he ran around the Finnish zone hitting everything in a blue jersey.
“There’s obviously a lot of skilled guys in this tournament,” Smith-Pelly said. “If you put pressure on them, sometimes, they’ll cough it up.
“We were pretty good (Monday night) on the forecheck.”
Jenner and Freddie Hamilton looked to add to the Canadian lead early in the final frame by deking to new Finnish goaltender Sami Aittokallio’s stick-side but came up empty.
Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Brett Connolly got a roar from the crowd for a fancy spinarama, but he couldn’t finish (no pun intended).
Forwards Jonathan Huberdeau (foot) and Quinton Howden (head) were scratched … Team Canada hasn’t named its captain yet, but Jaden Schwartz, Devante Smith-Pelly and Brandon Gormley wore ‘A’s Monday night.