Heading into Sunday night’s world cup opener for both Finland and Team North America, many pundits were wowed by North America’s speed and skill up front, but they were curious about the state of the goaltending and defence. Team North America was able to answer those questions handily with a dominating performance against Finland.
Finland came into this tournament as one of the favorites with solid goaltending, defense and forwards, but looked a league behind the North American’s who dazzled the crowd with their tenacity and dogged determination. Matt Murray stopped 24 of 25 shots he faced while Colton Parayko led the way with two points. The 25 shots on goal was indicative of the suffocating defence deployed by head coach Todd McLellan and his staff.
Auston Matthews, playing in his first game before an Air Canada Centre crowd brought the audience to it’s feet with a spectacular rush down the wing which was stopped by Pekka Rinne. However, the Finnish defense left Jack Eichel alone in front he was able to bang home the puck and give North America the lead.
Following a couple of near misses and some video review that negated a goal, North America would assert their will on the game by getting goals from Johnny Gaudreau, Jonathan Drouin and Nathan Mackinnon in the second period to establish a 4-0 lead.
Valteri Flippula would score for Finland with just 4:07 to go in the third period to break the goose egg but at that point it was just a matter of pride for the battered Finns.
After the game Gaudreau spoke to the media about how they were able to prepare to get by Finland.
“You work on little things after practice all the time, whether it’s tips, screening the goalie, getting shots on net, those little things you work on to help you win games”.
The North American team will have little time to enjoy the win as they hit the ice again tomorrow evening against Team Russia who dropped a 2-1 decision to Sweden earlier in the day.
Mark Scheifele had some thoughts on how the young guns would be able to forget about tonight’s result and be ready for Russia.
“Take care of your body and try and get a good sleep tonight, it’s definitely not hard to get up for one of these games, adrenaline is going to kick in, and we’ll be ready for tomorrow night.”
Puck drop is at 8:00 PM and live coverage will be on my Twitter Account on Ontario Sports Radio.
And be sure to tune in to the Haze FM for more audio interviews with players from North America.