About the League
2019 Sirius Junior Club World Cup action continued on August 30th with semifinal games. Kärpät Oulu, who finished on top of Pool B, faced Pool A’s Team AJHL in the first matchup of the day.
Finland and Canada matchup always means fast-paced hockey with a lot of physical battles and shots on net. There was plenty of that in the first few minutes of the game. Kärpät top-line was especially hot as they buzzed around Matthew Davis’ goal. Canada did their best to play physical brand of hockey – especially at their own blue line. Cam Mitchell lost his cool in one episode and got the first penalty of the game.
Oulu failed to convert on the ensuing powerplay but they did score at even strength – Ville Heikkila skated into the zone, received a drop-pass and sniped it home. It was a beautiful shot as the puck went top-shelf and hit water bottle, spilling its contents. That didn’t faze Canada as they sticked to their game. Soon after that they got a powerplay of their own and gave Joel Blomqvist a lot of work. ‘Ermines’ grabbed the momentum late in the period. With six seconds remaining on the clock a brawl broke out behind Blomqvist’s net and as a result of it Ryan Conroy and Aatu Räty got a couple of off-setting minors.
Early in the second period Finland found themselves down another man and Team AJHL tied it up on the following 4-on-3 powerplay. Canada pinned Kärpät to their net and Robert Kincaid scored his first of the tournament past Blomqvist. Marc-Antoine’s penalty should have cooled AJHL Selects but they didn’t allow ‘ermines’ create anything on the ensuing man-advantage. A little later Canada got another powerplay and managed to get in the lead. The very same Benoit put it top-shelf after a long passing play.
Such turn of events obviously didn’t bode well with Kärpät head-coach Ville Mäntymaa’s plans and Oulu rushed down the ice looking for the equalizer. Canada kept playing physical hockey and it worked for them. William Zapernick and Jordan Biro almost improved the lead to 3-1 but Blomqvist came up with a huge save. Nevertheless, he couldn’t stop Alex Young shortly after that – Olli Vanttaja turned the puck over and Alberta went up by two. Horrific period for the Finns wasn’t over yet either – Max Giangualano scored another one, bringing Kärpät one step closer to the bronze medal game.
Oulu came out hard for the third period. They had to score a quick goal to regain confidence. They couldn’t do that as Canada still made simple plays and stayed alert on defense. And when Kärpät did create something – Davis stood tall. Oulu switched to individual rushes but even when tournament leading scorer Tuukka Tieksola can’t score on a breakaway, it’s difficult not to give up. With five minutes remaining on the clock Kärpät pulled Blomqvist for the extra attacker but it only led to Giangualano scoring his second of the afternoon. With this 5-1 win Canada will play for gold for the first time since 2012 at Sirius Junior Club World Cup.
“We scored 19 goals in round robin but today we managed to score just once,” said Kärpät forward Tuukka Tieksola. “We created many good scoring chances, took a lot of shots but Team AJHL goaltender had a really good game and didn’t let us do our job. We have time to think about it and get ready for the bronze medal game. Jesse Koskenkorva left our team prior to the game. He was called up to the first team. Our coach said that we wouldn’t notice his absence but, obviously, such change had to affect the result.”
“We lost the first period. In the intermission our coach came in and said that we had what it takes to play more physical and do better in the second period than in first” said Team AJHL defenseman Robert Kincaid. “Boris [Rybalka] is a great motivator. While our second coach Rick Swan is calm, Boris is very emotional and he always pumps us up in the dressing-room. Having allowed a goal, we showed true Canadian spirit. We calmed down and worked hard. We were better ready for the game physically. It was obvious towards the end. We were certain we’d win. After we scored the fifth goal, coach told us not to celebrate the goal. I think it’s out of respect. Kärpät have a great team, we didn’t need to taunt them. I think we’re going to face Loko [Yaroslavl] in the final. We played a game against them and we did well. We’re going to have to play tough, play Canadian brand of hockey and then, perhaps, we can be successful.”
“I think many didn’t expect us to win,” said Team AJHL coach Rick Swan. “Today we showed great speed and skill. Our gameplan today was simple. Play confident in the neutral zone, leave our defensive zone quickly and be merciless on the forecheck. To be honest with you, our game today was simplified to the max but it worked. Besides, our goalie played great. I don’t think the score paints an accurate picture of the game and how close the teams were. We were careful with puck control and tried to win every face-off. Today we showed true Canadian spirit. I think everyone who was in the stands noticed that we wouldn’t back down. Gold medal game expectations? We faced Loko in the first game of the tounrnament. I think we’re going to face the in the final. Red Bull can expect to win only if their goaltender will have an unreal game. Russian team shows the highest level of play at the tournament. Whoever we face in the final, it’s going to be a difficult game. Everyone has already played four games at the tournament in a short time and it’s definitely going to affect the game.”
“We played well. Today was a real battle. We really battled with sticks. We made several mistakes in the first minutes of the second period, which led to goals,” said Kärpät head-coach Ville Mäntymaa. “We let Canada build a huge lead and couldn’t come back in the game. I tried to wake the boys up after second period so I think the whole arena heard me shout. We played great in the third period but couldn’t score. We lost one of our key forwards Jesse Koskenkorva prior to the game. I think his presence most of all affected our team mentally. Our elite division team called him up, and I understand them. We spoke to Kärpät coach and he was certain in his decision so I didn’t get in the way. Our goaltender played well. It was an important game for him. He gets to play for national team. This experience is priceless for him. Today pucks hit him like bullets. He has another game against North Americans and it’s great.”
2019 Sirius Junior Club World Cup
August 30th. Sochi, Russia. Shayba Ice Arena
Team AJHL (Canada) – Kärpät (Finland) – 5-1 (0-1, 4-0, 1-0)
0-1 – Heikkila (S. Koskenkorva, Moilanen) – 09-06
1-1 – Kincaid (Parker) – 21-35 PPG
2-1 – Benoit (Young, Benning) – 28-06 PPG
3-1 – Young (Unassisted) – 32-57
4-1 – Giangualano (Risk, Truman) – 35-34
5-1 – Giangualano (Brockhoff) – 56-24 EN
Goaltenders: Davis - Blomqvist