CIVIC CENTRE – Finland all but secured its spot in next year’s top division with a 7-1 drubbing of Kazakhstan in Saturday's relegation round action. Teemu Hartikainen paced all scorers with two goals and two assists, while teammates Tomi Sallinen and Joonas Rask had three apiece each in the win.
Finland – Kazakhstan 7-1 (3-0, 2-1, 2-0)
Today’s result came as little surprise, as Finland is not a traditional relegation round team, while Kazakhstan has been drubbed by all of its opponents at this year’s championship.
It took only 22 seconds for Finland to set the tone when Jyri Niemi scored. The Finns put in another pair of goals by the end of the period to take a 3-0 lead. Rask and Hartikainen had two points each in the period.
Kazakhstan started the second period strong, netting its only goal 1:03 into action when Konstantin Savenkov scored. But Finland was quick to respond, scoring a shorthanded tally shortly after to restore the three-goal pad. A power play goal by Hartikainen with 51 seconds left in the period made it 5-1 at the break.
A two-man advantage goal opened the second period when Toni Rajala scored. Hartikainen closed the scoring with 6:47 left in the game, bringing the final to 7-1.
There is still a very remote mathematical chance that the Finns could be relegated. It would take Latvia beating Kazakhstan on Sunday and the Germans beating the Finns. Should that happen, Latvia, Germany and Finland would all have six points, and the first tie-breaker would be goal differential in the standing between the teams involved. The Finns would be able to count their 5-1 win against Latvia, should that situation arise, putting them in a very good position.
Kazakhstan also still has a slim chance to stay among the world's elite in a similar tie-break situation. The Kazakhs would have to beat Latvia, and Finland would need to beat Germany, giving Kazakhstan, Germany and Latvia three points each. But with a 9-0 loss already in the books against Germany, the Kazakhs' chances don’t look good.
(Nathan also is a writer for Maineiacs Post to Post and the Maine Hockey Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)