BUFFALO, N.Y. – Boris Katchouk broke up a pass between two Finnish defenders and took off on a breakaway down the ice. Putting a backhand past Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, he then barrelled into Finland's goaltender, following the puck into the net.
It was a quintessential Katchouk play, doing as much damage to the psyche of the Finnish bench as it did on the scoreboard as Canada went on to a 4-2 win Tuesday to open the world junior hockey championship.
“It is,” said Katchouk when asked if the goal within the first six minutes of play was typical for him. “It's a game that I try to work on. Hunting pucks is a huge part of my game and once you're hunting pucks and retrieving on the offence good things are going to happen.”
As soon as Katchouk sprang to his feet he pumped his arms and shouted as he was mobbed by teammates in the corner. Finnish head coach Jussi Ahokas immediately called for a challenge on the play on the grounds that the puck hadn't crossed the goal-line when Katchouk fell into the net. Officials ruled it a good goal.
Katchouk acknowledged that his emphatic celebration probably influenced the referee, making it harder for off-ice officials to overturn the call.
“He called a goal on the ice and it's definitely hard to overturn that,” said Katchouk. “The puck was in motion and it was going into the net so, good things happened.”
Finland seemed rattled by the call standing, allowing Sam Steel to add a goal 27 seconds later with Finnish captain Juuso Valimaki in the penalty box for slashing. Steel jumped on a rebound off Luukkonen's pad and snapped it over the goalie's outstretched glove for a 2-0 Canada lead.
Katchouk's linemate Taylor Raddysh also scored and added an assist for Canada, while Drake Batherson had the eventual winner. Goaltender Carter Hart made 29 saves for the win.
“To be starting the tournament with a win, against a good team, is positive and we're happy about that,” said head coach Dominique Ducharme. “At the same time, we know we can (be) better.
“But it's the first game of the tournament, I thought our guys were a little bit nervous and excited all day. That takes a lot of energy.”
Aleksi Heponiemi and Henri Jokiharju replied for Finland, while Luukkonen stopped 28 shots.
Defenceman Dante Fabbro made his return to Canada's lineup. He had missed both of the Canadians' pre-tournament tune-up games and two of Canada's three selection camp exhibitions with a lower-body contusion suffered from blocking a puck while playing for Boston University.
“I felt good. Obviously, the first period I was just trying to feel things out,” said Fabbro, one of seven players returning from last year's silver-medal team. “I thought my D partners did a great job of helping me out in certain situations. I felt better every period.”
Heponiemi replied 12:19 into the first, banging the puck into the net when a Canadian defenceman tried to clear it out of the crease for Hart.
Batherson came right back for Canada, dropping to one knee to one time a pass from Jonah Gadjovich past Luukkonen to make it 3-1 before the first intermission. Despite the score, Finland had outshot Canada 12-7 in the period.
Jokiharju rifled a shot from the point that deflected off Gadjovich's leg and behind a screened Hart to cut Canada's lead to one near the midway point of the second period. It was a power-play goal with Katchouk in the box for tripping.
Raddysh put a slapshot from the point past Luukkonen at the 12:47 mark of the second, with the puck fluttering into the net for a 4-2 Canada lead.
Finland thought it had a goal late in the third period when the puck rolled behind Hart and toward the goal-line. But defenceman Cal Foote dove behind his goaltender and swatted the puck with his hand, bouncing it off the post and out. A video review at the next stoppage of play upheld the no-goal call on the ice.