The 2019 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships were held in Vancouver and Victoria from December 26, 2018 to January 5, 2019. This marked the second time Vancouver has hosted the championships, and the first time since 2006. The championships ended in a big disappointment for Canada. They placed second in their group of five teams after losing to Russia 2-1 on New Year’s Eve.
In their quarter final match-up against Finland, Canadian defense-man, Ian Mitchell, scored early in the second period to give Canada the lead. However, Finland scored on a lucky bounce off Aleksi Heponiemi’s skate, which then bounced off Canadian goalie and Vancouver Canucks prospect, Micheal DiPietro’s back and fell in with just 46 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game at 1-1. In the sudden death overtime period, Canada looked destined to win as Evan Bouchard was hooked on a breakaway, which lead to Canada getting awarded with a penalty shot, taken by Maxime Comtois. Many were left upset with Comtois and questioned coach Tim Hunter’s decision to choose Comtois, as his poor attempt was easily saved by Finnish goalie, Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. After the missed penalty shot, Canadian Noah Dobson had a good scoring chance, but his stick snapped. Finland then went down the other end of the ice and Canucks prospect Toni Utunen, scored on another Canucks prospect, DiPietro, to win Finland the game and send Canada home early.
The result of the World Juniors was disappointing for those in Vancouver. However, despite the under achievement from Team Canada, those in Vancouver had the opportunity to see many promising Canucks prospects at the tournament. One of these prospects is Canadian goalie DiPietro. Despite Canada’s disappointing performance, he was one of the standouts from the team and played very well. Not only did DiPietro help Canada stay in close games, but he also made good saves when needed, and posted terrific stats throughout the tournament. In the end, DiPietro finished with a 95.5 save percentage, 1.23 goals against average, and won player of the game twice, both times in 2-1 losses to Russia and Finland, respectively. The Canadian goalie had a very good performance at the World Juniors and will surely play the goaltender position for the Canucks at some point in the future.
Another Canucks prospect was the Finnish defense-man, Utunen, who broke Canadian hearts by scoring the overtime winner and sending Canada home in the quarter finals. Utunen doesn’t score much or get many points, but Utunen went on to win the gold medal with Finland at the World Juniors. He is a solid defenseman and scored the all-important goal to beat Canada in overtime. There is a good chance he suits up for Vancouver in the future.
The United States had a terrific World Juniors by their standards, making it to the finals only to fall to Finland 3-2 in the gold medal game. The American team featured two promising Canucks prospects, Tyler Madden and Quinn Hughes. Defenseman, Hughes nearly led the United States in ice time per game and got two assists during the World Juniors. He is currently averaging 1.18 points per game in college. Center, Madden had an excellent performance at the World Juniors. He scored three goals and got one assist throughout the tournament. Two of these goals came in a finals preview against Finland in the group stage, a game where he went on to win Player of the Game. The Canucks may see Madden or Hughes playing for them in the near future
The World Juniors were ultimately a success for Vancouver, as the tournament brought many economic benefits to the city. The local economic benefits would have definitely been better had Canada made a deeper run, but the World Juniors are estimated to have brought around $40 million in economic benefits for the city of Vancouver.
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