Saturday, 18 April 2009

WDIHC - Thursday Afternoon Rematch

Today's afternoon game is a rematch from Thursday's afternoon game where Finland met Canada. Canada, on its 4-0 record, is the designated home team, and has come out in their white uniforms. Finland takes to the ice in their blue uniforms and will look to rebound from the 8-3 hammering Canada put on them on Thursday. The largely pro-Canadian crowd is once again decked out in their red-and-white gear, and the 500 or so people really are cheering the Canadians as they take to the ice for the pre-game skate. As a roster note, #11 Jason Plumb of the Canadians will not be playing in today's game due to receiving a second game misconduct in Thursday's game. His physical presence will be missed, but Canada needs to play disciplined to win today.

We're moments away from the drop of the puck, so here are your gold medal game highlights!

  • Canada has come thundering out of the gates here as #12 Chris Garbacz throws two bone-rattling hits on Finnish players. Canada is really asserting themselves in the physical aspect of the game in the early going.
  • Janne Yrjola gives the Finns the lead at 16:37 with a powerplay marker. Goaltender Ryan Armitage flopped to his belly to cover the puck, but it was poked loose. Yrjola found the loose puck just outside the crease and flipped it over the sprawled Armitage. Finland leads 1-0.
  • Canada just has taken two unnecessary penalties. The first, to #12 Chris Garbacz, for goalie interference eliminates a Canadian powerplay. The second, 30 seconds later to #19 Mike Merriman for tripping, puts the Finns on a five-on-three powerplay for 59 seconds. As I stated above, Canada needs to play disciplined or the Finns will win this game.
  • With 11:20 remaining, Canada has killed off the goalie interference penalty. Finland still has 24 seconds remaining in their man-advantage.
  • Some extreme confusion between the benches as #7 Marko Liimatainen was sent off for ten minutes. Canada thought they were on the powerplay, but all was clarified by the officials. Seven minutes remain in the first period.
  • With 6:27 to play, #26 Elias Nurminen found himself all alone in the slot. His high snapshot from the hash marks was turned aside by Ryan Armitage's left shoulder to keep the Canadians down by only one goal.
  • With 3:40 remaining, both teams have turned up the dial in the hitting department by a few notches. The Finns have caught the Canadians a couple of times against the boards hard, while Canada has responded with some crunches on the endboards.
  • #19 Mike Merriman takes a swipe at a covered puck by #1 Pauli Kitula, and that brings a scrum into the crease. #13 Fredrik Oller gives Merriman the business, but only Merriman goes to the box for slashing. 1:42 remains in the first period.
  • With 30.1 seconds left, a Finnish player is down on the ice behind the play, and he looks to be in considerable pain as he favors his left leg.
At the end of a fast-paced, hard-hitting first period, Finland leads Canada by a 1-0 score. Honestly, this has been the best first period of action seen thus far by this writer, and I am thoroughly impressed with both teams' intensity and passion in this game. Canada needs to start playing more disciplined, however, if it wants to pull even with the fiesty Finns.

On to the second period!
  • At 17:37 of the second, #7 Steve Devine was ejected for throwing a punch while on the bench. He also gets a two minute penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, and a ten-minute misconduct for his actions. The Finns go back to another powerplay.
  • At 16:45, #14 Cole Pearson was whistled for a high-stick. The Finns will have their second five-on-three advantage for just over a minute.
  • At 15:55, a shorthanded breakaway for #8 Davin Bell during the five-on-three from his own blueline is turned away by Kitula's blocker. Canada misses a glorious opportunity.
  • At 15:28, #12 Chris Garbacz is sent in alone shorthanded from the Finnish blueline. Kitula gets just enough of it with his glove to knock it down, and it still finds its way behind him only to hit the post before he covers it. Canada is getting good chances now as they seem to more frustrated with the officiating than the Finnish team.
  • #8 Davin Bell is sent off at 13:41 for throwing a hit on Finnish goaltender Pauli Kitula. Two minutes for goaltender interference has to be called on that, and it is.
  • #13 Fredrik Oller is whisted for interference for running a pick on Canadian forward #29 Brett McLaren. McLaren could have easily won that footrace to the loose puck, so that may have been a smart play by Oller.
  • Canada's #6 Brad Gurr and Finland's #7 Marko Liimatainen are sent off for coincidental minors at 10:43. Gurr was whistled for holding, and Liimatainen was whistled for the dive.
  • #14 Cole Pearson is sent off at 9:33 for a hit to the head. That'll be two and ten for the elbow to the head.
  • With 9:00 remaining, this game is beginning to turn into a parade to the penalty box for Canada. #8 Davin Bell is called for kneeing, and skates directly to the box.
  • Five seconds into the powerplay, #22 Jan-Erik Granvik rips a shot from the high slot for Finland's second powerplay goal of the game. Finland leads 2-0.
  • Right after the goal, Canada is whistled for holding as #15 Dawson Friesen joins his teammates in the sin bin.
  • Finland is turning this into the powerplay show. Janne Nyberg rips a slapshot to the high glove corner to put Finland up by three goals. Finland leads 3-0.
  • #3 Jalen Harris and #20 Kimmo Hoivassilta are sent off together at 6:46. Harris goes for holding, and Hoivassilta for diving.
  • Finland's #11 Tero Tiainen is sent off for hooking, and Canada will go on the powerplay with 6:05 remaining in the second period. Now would be a great time for Canada to start the comeback.
  • With 2:58 to go, #25 Scott Savard is sent off for roughing. Canada's lack of discipline in this game - seriously, keep both hands on the stick and the lumber on the ice! - is costing them this game.
  • Less than a minute later, and penalty boxes are full for coincidental minor penalties. Referee Brett Montsion is really hearing it from the fans as even the smallest of infractions are being called.
  • With 1:12 to go, Montsion receives a huge ovation as Finland's #20 Kimmo Hoivassilta is sent off for holding. Montsion has his head on a swivel now, looking for anything that resembles a penalty.
After a penalty-filled second period, Finland has the advantage, and the gold medal in their sights, as they lead 3-0. Goaltender Pauli Kitula hasn't been shaken by any of the scrums taking in and around his crease, and looks solid through two periods of play. If Canada wants to win this game, they need to start moving their feet at all times. Referee Brett Montsion has taken this game over, and the only way they are going to win is by out-skating the Finns.

The last period of the tournament starts shortly!
  • #4 Janne Nyberg begins the parade back to the box as he's called for high-sticking at 18:21. Canada needs this powerplay goal desperately.
  • Finland is back to even-strength. Canada needs to keep the pressure on.
  • Janne Yrjola rips a wrist shot on a partial breakaway wide, but regains control and centers it for #19 Eetu Keski-Levijoki who taps it home through Armitage's five-hole. Finland leads 4-0.
  • Canada has 15:00 remaining in their quest for gold. And it doesn't look promising. Finland is playing classic trap hockey, and you can see the frustration building on the Canadian side.
  • On a two-on-one, #24 Janne Yrjola cruises down the left wing and draws defenceman Casey O'Brien towards him before saucering a pass across to #19 Eetu Keski-Levijoki. Keski-Levijoti makes no mistake and fires it into the yawning cage at 14:49. Finland leads 5-0.
  • With 8:52 left, time is staring the Canadian squad down. They have to find a way through the suffocating Finnish collapsing defensive unit, or this game is over.
  • With 8:06 remaining, Canada has a deflected goal disallowed as #14 Cole Pearson is called for goaltender interference. The crowd is all over referee Montsion after that call. Kitula flops, and the referee reacts.
  • With 5:55 remaining, #4 Janne Nyberg is lying on the ice. Why? No clue. He didn't get hit nor was he hit with the puck.
  • Canada is finally legally on the board! With 5:50 left, Casey O'Brien lasers a shot into the Finnish net, providing Canada with some sort of hope. Father Time may have something to say about that, though. Finland leads 5-1.
  • And as soon as Canada has some momentum going, they take another penalty as Montsion calls Casey O'Brien for roughing with 5:37 left. Slim and none are all the chances that Canada has left.
  • Canada is giving it all they have. With 3:58 remaining, Canada nets their second goal as #15 Dawson Friesen slaps home a rebound between Kitula's pads. Finland leads 5-2.
  • With 1:50 remaining, Canada will need some sort of divine intervention at this point, but they are generating a number of chances. Kitula, however, is equal to the task.
  • With 1:14 left in the game, Finland's #24 Janne Yrjola is sent to the box. Too little, too late for Canada at this point in the game, however.
With the final horn, the Finnish players rush onto the ice to mob their goaltender in traditional fashion. Canada's undisciplined play in the second period is certainly the story of this game as Finland took advantage of the tired Canadian penalty killers. Finland will be crowned as the first-ever World Deaf Ice Hockey Champions momentarily, but we still have Player of the Game to complete. It should be no surprise that Pauli Kitula will probably be a tournament all-star at minimum as he really carried his team this afternoon.

Player Of The Game - Canada: #25 Scott Savard.
Player Of The Game - Finland: #1 Pauli Kitula.

Tournament's Best Goaltender: #1 Pauli Kitula (Finland).
Tournament's Best Defenceman: #19 Mike Merriman (Canada).
Tournament's Best Forward: #24 Janne Yrjola (Finland).

Tournament MVP: #1 Pauli Kitula (Finland).

As the speeches from the various VIPs are made, I want to say that these games were some of the best hockey I have seen in a long time. While it doesn't compare to the Olympics or the NHL, the entire tournament was a phenomenal showing of athletic abilities from the deaf community, and both the hockey players and curlers showed their abilities with pride on the international stage.

Once again, I cannot say thank you enough to the organizers of the World Deaf Ice Hockey and Curling Championships. Everyone who I spoke to this week went out of their way to assist me in whatever way necessary, and it's that kind of hospitality that makes one remember an event like this for a long, long time.

To my colleague Steve Perreira, you were more than outgoing this week, and your assistance in getting me up to speed with rosters and teams was outstanding, and I can't thank you enough. I may have bought you lunch on Saturday, but you gave me a lifetime of memories and a week's worth of laughter. Thank you for everything you did. You were my go-to guy for all I needed. Thank you!

To Denise Watson, in charge of Public Relations, I thank you for allowing me to attend the games and to learn about the deaf community in so many ways. Without your support, I may never have had the chance to experience this event, and I cannot thank you enough for including me - a hearing person - to be part of the First World Deaf Ice Hockey Championships. Thank you!

Congratulations to Team Finland on their gold medal victory! Congratulations to Canada on their silver-medal performance! Congratulations to Team USA for their bronze medal win! And to both Russia and Slovakia, congratulations on a great week of hockey, and good luck at the Deaf Olympics in Slovakia to all the teams!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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