It was an early wakeup call for Canada’s world junior team.
Undisciplined and out of sorts, the Canadians dropped an exhibition game to Finland 3-2 on Thursday. Two of the Finnish goals were scored with a 5-on-3 power play during a game that saw Canada assessed nine minor penalties in total.
“I think the challenge for us obviously is coming together as a team,” said Canadian coach Steve Spott. “It’s our first game. But ultimately I think discipline is the subplot here tonight, where we have to get used to the standard of officiating and deal with our discipline a lot smarter than we did tonight.”
Miro Aaltonen scored the winning goal 7:16 into the third period. Markus Granlund and Ville Jarvelainen had the power-play markers earlier in the game.
Griffin Reinhart and Mark Scheifele replied for Canada with goals 36 seconds apart in the second period while Malcom Subban finished with 19 saves.
Canada was outshot 22-15 overall and Spott expects to see a better offensive effort when his team faces Sweden in another exhibition game on Saturday.
“I think we’ve got to create more offence, but that comes from staying out of the penalty box,” he said. “That to me is going to be our challenge here. We turned over too many pucks, took penalties and that took away from our 5-on-5 ability to create offence.”
Canada played without forward Jonathan Huberdeau, who served the final game of a four-game suspension for abusing an official in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
The team also lost forward Brett Ritchie to an upper-body injury after an awkward collision with an opponent midway through the game. He was held out as a precaution and the injury isn’t considered serious.
After facing Sweden over the weekend, Canada will travel to Ufa, Russia for the world junior hockey championship. It plays its first game there on Dec. 26 against Germany.
“You want to make sure when you hit the 26th that your team is where you need it to be,” said Spott. “It’s a matter of getting better every day and learning what it’s like to play over here and the standard (of officiating) and the type of game that these teams play.”