CALGARY – Martin Jones has played in many big games at Pengrowth Saddledome, but he admitted to having a case of nerves before making his debut for Canada’s junior team in his home rink.
It didn’t seem to faze him as he stopped all 17 shots he faced to lead Canada to a 3-0 win over Finland in a world junior exhibition game Tuesday in front of 10,756 fans.
“It was a lot of fun to play at home and get a warm welcome and have a good game which was just a bonus,” said Jones, who has played for the Calgary Hitmen of the Western Hockey League for the past four seasons. “There was nerves either way. My first game for Team Canada, there’s always expectations to win. I think playing at home, if anything, helped me get a little more comfortable. I’ve been in the rink a lot of times so it was a little easier transition for me.”
Canada’s defence played well in front of Jones, not allowing Finland to mount much of an offensive attack throughout the game despite being short-handed nine times.
“We gave up way too many power plays for them,” said Canadian defenceman Ryan Ellis. “I think we tightened up defensively. They had some chances but Jonesy was there. Overall (it was) just a solid game defensively.”
Taylor Hall scored his second goal in as many games, while Alex Pietrangelo and Brandon McMillan also scored for Canada.
“Any time I can chip in any way I can it’s nice,” said Hall, who sat out the final two periods of Canada’s 6-2 win over Sweden on Sunday in Regina after suffering a minor knee injury. “The knee was fine tonight. I was a little unsure before the game how it would feel. When I got into the game, I didn’t feel it at all so it shouldn’t be problem throughout the tournament.”
Jordan Eberle added a pair of assists for Canada, which will return to Regina for its third and final pre-competition game against the Czech Republic Wednesday night before opening the world junior tournament on Dec. 26 against Latvia in Saskatoon.
Finnish netminder Joni Ortio, a sixth round (171st overall) pick of the Calgary Flames in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, stopped 21 of 24 shots he faced.
“It’s bad that we lost, but I think we put on a good effort and gave our best, so it’s good to move on,” said Ortio, one of three goalies on the squad hoping to earn the starting spot.
Jones was tested early in the first period after Canadian forward Nazem Kadri took a charging penalty 12 seconds into the game. On the ensuing power play, Jones stood his ground at the top of his crease to stop a slap shot by Finnish forward Toni Rajala, who also plays in the WHL with the Brandon Wheat Kings.
Pietrangelo opened the scoring for Canada at 13:21 of the first period when he blasted a slap shot from the point into the top corner, blocker side behind Ortio, who was screened by Brandon McMillan on the play.
Early in the second period, Hall took a feed from Brandon Kozun, the second member of the Hitmen who cracked Canada’s roster, and roofed a shot over Ortio’s outstretched glove.
“It was nice to get that point but getting the win was just as good,” said Kozun. “I think I was a little nervous at the beginning of the game but I settled in as the game went on.”
Finland appeared to score early in the third period when forward Teemu Hartikainen drove hard to the net and knocked the puck in with his skate. After a quick discussion between the on-ice officials, the puck was ruled to have been kicked in and the goal was disallowed.
McMillan rounded out the scoring when he took a pass from Eberle at Finland’s blue-line and charged towards the Finnish net with a full head of steam. After faking a forehand shot, McMillan deked to his backhand and tucked a shot into the net behind Ortio.