Warriors’ defencemen shine as Canada drops U-18 preliminary finale to Finland

WHL Network


Poprad, Slovakia – With first place in Group A on the line, Team Finland – led by Kristian Vesalainen – was simply too much for Team Canada to handle Tuesday morning at the 2017 IIHF World U-18 Championship.

Despite strong showings from a pair of Moose Jaw Warriors defencemen – Josh Brook and Jett Woo – Team Canada fell for the first time at the tournament, dropping a 6-3 decision to Finland, solidifying the standings atop Group A. The undefeated Finns (4-0-0-0) finish first in the group, while Canada (2-1-0-1) finishes second.

The two teams went back and forth before Finland eventually pulled away in the second period.

Vesalainen opened the scoring a mere 56 seconds into the contest before Brook set up Jack Studnicka (Oshawa Generals, OHL) to tie the game three minutes later.

Vesalainen tallied his second of the game 30 seconds into the second period, restoring Finland’s lead. Miro Heiskanen made it a 3-1 game and Santeri Virtanen added a shorthanded marker as Finland exploded for a 4-1 advantage 12:37 into the second period.

Woo managed to claw one back for the Canadians, scoring with 1:22 to go in the period to send the two teams into intermission with a 4-2 lead on the scoreboard in favour of Finland.

Once again, the Finns came out flying to start the following period as Teemu Engberg made it a 5-2 game only 1:24 in. That spelled the end of the day for Prince Albert Raiders goaltender Ian Scott, who was lifted from the contest after stopping 22 of 27 shots sent his way.

Mackenzie Entwistle (Hamilton Bulldogs, OHL) once again pulled Canada within a pair, but Vesalainen completed his hat-trick performance by depositing one final puck into the Canadian cage with Jake McGrath (Sudbury Wolves, OHL) at the bench for the extra attacker.

Finishing second in Group A, Canada advances to the quarter-finals – set for Thursday in Spisska Nova Ves, Slovakia – and will face the third-place team from Group B, which has yet to be determined.  As for Finland, their first-place finish sets up a quarter-finals date with the fourth-place team from Group B, which has also yet to be determined.

For Brook, he found the scoresheet for the first time in the tournament, while Woo notched his first goal and second point in four games.

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