Warriors duo performs well in Canada’s Tuesday loss

(Courtesy Marc Smith)  Jett Woo and Josh Brook had big games, but the Moose Jaw Warriors defencemen’s performance wasn’t enough to lead Team Canada to a win on Tuesday against Finland in their final round robin game at the 2017 IIHF Under-18 World Championship.

Woo scored and Brook picked up an assist as Canada lost 6-3 to Finland in Poprad, Slovakia.

With the win, Finland secures first place in Group A with a 4-0 record, while Canada finishes second at 3-1.  The quarterfinals will go on Thursday.

“We definitely didn’t play our best,” said Brook.  “We need to have everyone going to beat a team like that, they’re a very strong and skilled team.  We didn’t have our best game.”

Brook had an assist on Canada’s first goal for his first point of the tournament, while Woo scored for Canada late in the second period to cut Finland’s lead to 4-2 after 40 minutes, giving him two points in the past two games.

This is Brook’s second time representing Canada at an under-18 tournament after competing in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup last August.  He also previously represented Canada at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.

He said he’s really enjoying his role on this year’s team.

“The role is a bit different than mine in Moose Jaw, I’m being relied on more defensively and on the PK, so it’s been awesome,” said Brook.

Canada headed into Tuesday’s meeting with Finland needing a win to clinch top spot in their group, but never seemed to recover from a pair of penalties in the opening minute of the game.

Finland’s Kristian Vesalainen, who finished with a hat trick and is leading the tournament in scoring, found the back of the net on that early power play to open the scoring.

Canada answered back not too long after when Brook created a turnover and set up Oshawa Generals forward Jack Studnicka to tie things up at 1-1 just 3:55 into the game.

“The forwards were putting on good pressure on their D and I saw that one D was going to ring it, so I stepped up on the wall and saw Studnicka was going to the net, passed it to him and he put it home,” said Brook.

Vesalainen scored his second of the game just 30 seconds into the second period to kick off a big second period for the Finns.  Miro Heiskanen scored just over six minutes later and Santeri Virtanen made it a 4-1 game later in the frame.

Woo pulled Canada back into the game when he rifled a wrist shot top shelf with 1:22 remaining in the second.

“(Jett) played great today, he was throwing the body around and scored a big goal,” said Brook.

Canada was burned by an early goal again in the third period as Teemu Engberg put the momentum back on Finland’s side with them leading 5-2.

A power play goal from Hamilton Bulldogs forward MacKenzie Entwistle just past the midway point of the third gave Canada some life, but Vesalainen’s hat trick goal into an empty net sealed the win for Finland with 1:38 to go in the game.

Canada was out-shot 34-20 in the game and 22-10 over the final two periods.  Prince Albert Raiders goalie Ian Scott was replaced after allowing five goals on 27 shots, while Sudbury Wolves goalie Jacob McGrath turned away all six shots he faced in relief.

Penalty trouble was a big issue for Canada in the game as they gave up six power plays to Finland.

“We definitely have to clean that up a little bit, all the games we’ve taken too many penalties so we’ll need to clean that up moving on in the tournament,” said Brook.

Canada will now turn their attention to the medal round with the quarterfinals coming up on Thursday. Brook said that they need to focus on cleaning up their game moving forward.

“We’ve learned a lot through this round robin, just how hard it’s going to be, how we have to compete every shift, but we know what its going to take and we’ll be ready when it comes to the quarterfinals,” he said.

“We just need to have everyone going, everyone on the same page and we all need to have our best games.”

Canada will square off with Sweden in the quarterfinals on Thursday.  The other quarterfinal match-ups will see the United States face Switzerland; Finland will go up against the Czech Republic; and host Slovakia battles Russia.

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