Hockey

Heartbreaking loss a learning experience for Canadian junior hockey team

After a devastating a 2-1 overtime loss to Finland in the world junior hockey championship quarter-final, team captain Maxime Comtois says it must act as motivation for the members of Team Canada.

Canada did not win a medal for the second time in four years

Canada's Alexis Lafreniere (22) hangs his head after losing to Finland in overtime of the quarter-final IIHF world junior hockey championship in Vancouver on Wednesday. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

A devastating quarter-final loss at the world junior hockey championship must act as motivation for the members of Team Canada, says the squad's captain.

"We've got to move forward," Maxime Comtois, the only returning member from last year's gold medal-winning group, said after a 2-1 overtime loss to Finland on Wednesday night.

WATCH | Finland defeats Canada in overtime:

After tying the game with 46 seconds left in the 3rd, Finland scored after Canada failed to convert on 2 game-ending opportunities in overtime, knocking the hosts out of the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship in Vancouver. 2:23

"This is going to help us in the long run as individuals. We've got to take it as a man and move forward."

This year's players gave everything they had, Comtois said.

Coach Tim Hunter agreed, saying the players went hard the entire game against Finland.

"We played a great game start to finish. And it just didn't work out," he said.

As a result, Canada will not receive a medal for the second time in four years. But it's just the second time in 21 years Canada will not play for a medal.

The result is difficult to take, said Hockey Canada CEO Tom Renney.

"We want to be the best team playing the game. It doesn't always happen that way," he said.

"I think we worked really hard, I thought we were organized, I thought we did all the things we needed to do to give ourselves the best chance to win. At the end of the day, you saw a bunch of teenagers doing everything they possibly could to do something special in their homeland."

Hunter was an assistant with the team last year and moved to bench boss ahead of this tournament. There were differences between the roles, he said.

"Just the challenge of getting 20-plus guys to buy into a system, to buy into a mindset and become a family — which we did all of those — and to play well, to compete for our country in a short period of time," he said.

Struggled to capitalize 

Canada started the tournament strong, notching a 14-0 win over Denmark in a Boxing Day blowout.

But the offence lapsed after that, with the team putting up just 10 goals over the next four games. Half of those goals came in a 5-1 win over the Czech Republic.

Canada struggled with the power play in particular, capitalizing on just three of 18 chances. The power play was ranked eighth in the 10-team tournament on Thursday.

Hunter wasn't ready to analyze what could have been done differently after Wednesday's loss.

"I'm not going to put blame or talk about what went right or what went wrong," he said. "It's over. I'm going to go relax."

Looking forward

Six players on this year's team are eligible to return for next year's tournament in the Czech Republic — forwards Alexis Lafreniere, Joe Veleno and Barrett Hayton and defencemen Ty Smith, Noah Dobson and Jared McIsaac.

"We always want to win," said Comtois, an Anaheim Ducks prospect. "Now they're going to have the feeling of losing. They don't want to repeat that next year, so they're going to know what it feels like and I think they're going to be ready to attack every game next year."

Despite the disappointing finish, Canadian defenceman Evan Bouchard said there were positives.

"The chemistry that we created, the friendships that we created. There are memories here, friends here that I think are going to last a long time," he said.