HELSINKI — Dylan Strome and his Canadian teammates are pressing reset on the world junior hockey championship.
Canada advanced to the quarter-finals of the international event on Thursday despite an undisciplined 5-2 loss to Sweden in the final game of the preliminary round. The Canadians finished third in Group A play with a regulation win, a shootout win and two losses at Helsinki Ice Hall.
Strome, who earned an assist in Thursday’s loss, was angry after Canada took 10 penalties, giving up three power-play goals to Sweden.
"I think it’s a new dressing room, new team, new identity, new everything," said Strome. "I think no one cares about the round robin. Doesn’t matter what happened, just get ready for the quarter-finals."
Canada was guaranteed third place in Group A regardless of Thursday’s result. The Canadians will play host Finland in quarter-final play Saturday.
"Forget about it," said Strome when asked what he thought of the lopsided loss to Sweden. "New Year, no one cares about the round robin. It doesn’t matter if you went 4-and-0, 1-2-and-1, 1-1-and-2, I don’t even know what we were.
"It’s about Finland and it’s about the next game."
Mitchell Stephens and Mitch Marner scored for Canada. Mackenzie Blackwood made 27 saves on 31 shots in front of a raucous crowd at Helsinki Ice Hall. Canada struggled to stay out of the penalty box throughout the game, picking up 10 minor penalties in all.
"I think we had got into some penalty trouble there and they’ve got a really good power play so we were a little behind the 8-ball to start off the game," said Blackwood. "I think we just came out a little slow but kind of picked it up there and just didn’t get to do all we wanted."
Alexander Nylander, Gustav Forsling and Adrian Kempe all had power-play goals for Sweden (4-0), while Anton Karlsson had an even-strength goal and Rasmus Asplund added an empty-netter. Sweden will next face Slovakia in the quarter-finals.
Linus Soderstrom stopped 21 shots for the victory. Felix Sandstrom was in the Swedish net for the final three minutes of the game and turned aside the only shot he faced.
"It’s a quick recovery here," said Travis Konecny, who threw several big hits to energize Canada in the second period. "We try to forget those games that we’ve lost. We’ve got to turn it around here and just start focusing on the elimination rounds now.
"It’s a whole new tournament now, it resets and any team can win at any time."
Canada played all four of its preliminary round games at Helsinki Ice Hall, the smaller of the two venues hosting the world juniors. Its game against Finland in the quarter-finals will be in the larger Hartwall Arena, which seats 13,349 fans.
Finland is one of the stronger teams in the tournament, going 3-1 to finish second in Group B. Finnish forwards Jesse Puljujarvi, Sebastian Aho and Patrik Laine are the top three scorers in the tournament.
"We’re major underdogs, I think," said defenceman Joe Hicketts. "We come in and Finland is one of the top teams in the tournament. And we kind of knew that coming in.
"It’s going to be about getting our game in order and making sure that we come prepared to play 60 minutes."
Blackwood predicted that Canada would have a breakout game in the quarter-finals and thinks the loss to Sweden will build character.
"I think it’s good for us," said Blackwood. "We’re not expected to be the No. 1 team in everybody else’s eyes, we’ve got the underdog role there. We’re just going to try and come out and play our game and get a win the next time we play."
Swedish star William Nylander, the older brother of Alexander, did not play. He hasn’t played since Switzerland’s Chris Egli levelled him with a bodycheck to the upper body in a game last Saturday.
Sweden’s team doctor told reporters that the team hopes Nylander will play later in the tournament. Egli was suspended three games for the hit.