In the evening of 6th June, the last match (64) of the 2021 IIHF World Championship will be played in Arena Riga between Canada and Finland, who are the reigning World Champions since 2019 (in 2020 the tournament did not take place due to the Covid-19 pandemic), after beating Canada 3-1 in Bratislava.
This tournament will go in the history books just as the previous one hosted by Latvia in 2006, when Sweden became the champions, also managing to win the Winter Olympics that year and up to this day, are the only team, which has managed to win both, the Olympics and the World Championship in a single calendar year.
In 2021, the Swedes did not even make the top 8, for the first time in history… Unfortunately, this tournament will be remembered as the one, where there were no or a very limited number of fans.
Team Latvia only had one opportunity to play in front of their fans, and the Arena with 10,300 seats hosted only 934 spectators, even though the maximum number allowed was 2660. It is so because only people vaccinated with the Covid-19 vaccine or with the proof of having had the virus before could attend the games.
Another issue could be the ticket pricing policy. The tickets for preliminary round games cost 110 euros, while the price of a ticket for the final match starts at 340 euros. Quite a lot for a country, where the minimum wage is 500 euros…
Nevertheless, this IHWC in Riga gave plenty of good emotions to the fans around the world, with surprising scores such as Latvia beating Canada for the first time (2-0), Denmark beating Sweden and possibly the biggest surprise of them all, Kazakhstan beating Finland, Canada, and others.
As evident, several teams managed to beat Canada in the beginning of the tournament and yet, they are the ones who are going to play the last game of the tournament against Finland. A game-changer for them could be the moment when Andrew Mangiapane (25 y.o/Calgary Flames) joined the team after the first 3 losses.
Ever since, Team Canada has held the record of 5-1 after the Flames forward has joined them, carrying the team on his back with 11 points (7 goals and 4 assists) and being the leading scorer of the team and tied-leading scorer of the tournament with another surprise, Liam Kirk from Team Great Britain.
The first line of Team Canada with Mangiapane, Captain Adam Henrique and Connor Brown is setting the tone and scoring most of the goals for the Canadians.
For Team Finland, on the contrary, defence has been the main asset of achieving such results in the tournament. Their top scorer is the rising star, 19 year old Anton Lundell with 7 points (4 goals + 3 assists), however, their goalie Jussi Olkinuora has carried the team to 5 wins, with 95.27% saves percentage and has only allowed the opponents to score an average of 1.15 goals per game.
Certainly, it is going to be a battle between defence and offense, the mighty Team Canada, which barely made the playoffs, but has gotten stronger ever since, and has the top 2 scorers of the tournament on its roster, against the pragmatic Team Finland, where defensive and team effort sets the tone of the match.
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