IIHF World Juniors Bronze Medal Game: Canada vs. Finland

This isn't the time slot Canada was supposed to be playing in on Thursday. The main event takes place in the evening, not the middle of the afternoon. The opening act of the final day isn't supposed to feature the local heroes, but that's the fate Canada faces. Bronze is not the medal that Canadian boys dream of playing for at this tournament, but it is all that is available to them now.

Canadian hockey teams generally aren't big on bronze medals. Historically, Canada has opted for an 'all or nothing' type strategy and playing in it essentially means they're playing for nothing. Canada's Boone Jenner kind of embodied that attitude by his foolish spear of Yevgeni Kuznetsov after the whistle when Canada looked out of their semifinal game (but ended up not being so out of it after all). Jenner's tournament ended there, so Canada is down their top faceoff man for their last game as a result. All their other players, aside from Devante Smith-Pelly, will be there, though. And the fans in Calgary will all be there as well. National pride was hurt on Tuesday, but a measure of redemption can be achieved with a win here.

For Finland, this marks a chance for the nation to get its first World Junior medal after a five year drought. That's definitely a huge motivator for them, but 2012 looks like a very wasted opportunity for the team. I didn't feel they were a great match for Sweden, but they nearly pulled off the upset, squandering the lead on a puck-handling gaffe by their goaltender Sami Aittokallio, and then falling in the shootout in their last opportunity. I say this was a missed opportunity because while I didn't necessarily like how they stacked up against Sweden in a game with gold medal aspirations still in tact (I would've felt differently if it were in the bronze medal game), I did like how Finland stacked up against Russia. Finland had a lot of the elements Russia had: talent on three different scoring lines, a decent goaltender, but better centres than Canada in general, and a more disciplined team in general. I really believe if Finland had won the shootout against Sweden that they'd win the gold here

As it stands, I don't like how they match up against Canada. Finland's defence is good at preventing odd man rushes but can be exploited in the cycle game and that's Canada's bread and butter. The only redeeming factor for Finland heading into this game is that it's Aittokallio in goal instead of Christopher Gibson, and that Boone Jenner isn't there to injure one of their defensemen again. Historically, Finland are very tough in bronze medal games and I expect this game to be a lot closer than the 8-1 game that opened the tournament on Boxing Day, but in the end, I expect Canada will close out their tournament by hearing "Oh Canada", just not in the timeslot they wanted nor wearing the medal they truly coveted around their necks.

Gametime is at 1:30 PM MST. Broadcasts of this game are on every channel you expect: TSN/RDS (Canada), MTV3 (Finland), NHL Network (USA), SVT (Sweden), Eurosport2 (Europe), NTV Plus (Russia), and Fasthockey (webcast).

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