Canada Advances to Olympic Hockey 2018 Medal Rounds with 1-0 Win vs. Finland

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistFebruary 21, 2018

Finland's Petri Kontiola clashes with Canada's Karl Stollery in the men's quarter-final ice hockey match between Finland and Canada during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Gangneung Hockey Centre in Gangneung on February 21, 2018.   / AFP PHOTO / Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV        (Photo credit should read KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/AFP/Getty Images)
KIRILL KUDRYAVTSEV/Getty Images

Canada advanced to the medal rounds in men's ice hockey at the 2018 Winter Olympics with a 1-0 victory Wednesday over Finland at the Gangneung Hockey Centre in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Maxim Noreau scored the game-winning goal early in the third period in a clash that featured a limited number of scoring chances. Canada goaltender Ben Scrivens, who left the game in the second period because of injury, and his replacement, Kevin Poulin, combined to make 21 saves for the quarterfinals shutout.     

Quality of play was a major concern coming into the tournament following the NHL's decision not to release its players for the Pyeongchang Games. Those issues were on full display in the first period as two of the most talented hockey nations on the planet struggled to generate offense.

The sides tallied just nine total shots on goal in the opening 20 minutes. The lack of star power without the likes of Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid (Canada) or Aleksander Barkov and Patrik Laine (Finland) also led to a sparse crowd, as Stephen Whyno of the Associated Press spotlighted:

Canada was forced to switch netminders less than five minutes into the second period after Scrivens was involved in a collision. Poulin, who played in Sunday's 4-0 victory over South Korea, entered the contest in relief.

The backup made a couple of nice stops, especially considering the circumstances, to keep the game scoreless during a Finnish power play right after the goalie change.

Noreau finally broke the scoreless deadlock 55 seconds into the third period.

Canada earned an offensive-zone faceoff less than a minute into the frame. Eric O'Dell won the draw clean back to the SC Bern defenseman, who unleashed a slap shot that beat Finland goaltender Mikko Koskinen.

The International Ice Hockey Federation provided a look at the celebration:

The pace of play picked up inside the final five minutes as the Suomi pushed for an equalizer. The Canada defense stood tall, however, and pushed the team over the finish line into the semifinals.

On Friday, the Canadians will face Germany, which upset Sweden 2-1 in its quarterfinal, as they look to get to another gold-medal match and defend their title from the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia.

They should be confident in their chances given the team's strong play defensively in a tournament that's become more about grinding out wins than highlight-reel offense.      

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