REGINA – Finland outshot Sweden, but Sweden scored more goals in a 7-1 victory against their neighbours. The Swedes secured a bye to the semi-finals on January 3.
Both teams had a chance to win the group in this game. Although Finland held a 39-28 shots-on-goal advantage, the Finns were outsmarted by the Swedish players.
The game started off with Northern European calmness. The teams neutralized each other, although Finland clearly outshot the Swedes in the first period thanks to the power plays.
However, it’s not the quantity of shots that matter, it’s the quality. That was a requirement the Swedes fulfilled better than the Finnish Lions. Tre Kronor looked more dangerous in their rare appearances in front of Joni Ortio’s net, while the Finns had bad luck when a goal was disallowed after a video review 13 minutes into the game.
After a 10-1 victory against winless Austria the night before, the Finns were undone by their biggest problem, which coach Hannu Jortikka noted some days before: their lack of natural goal scorers. A red-hot Jacob Markström in the Swedish net didn’t make life easier for the Finns.
Finland’s first-period figures: eight minutes on the power play, 26 shots, zero goals.
To make things worse for Suomi, Andre Petersson opened the scoring with Sweden’s third shot on goal at 16:52.
Finnish forward Jasse Ikonen lost the puck to Petersson at his own blueline, and Petersson taught the Finns a lesson in scoring with his hard shot from eight metres out right into the net.
Things didn’t improve for Finland in the second period. On the fourth Swedish shot of the period, Dennis Rasmussen extended the lead to 2-0 at 5:24. Midway through the game, the Swedes scored the 3-0 goal. Mattias Tedenby escaped for a breakaway and skated around Finnish captain Jyri Niemi in the style of a slalom skier.
“We didn’t start the game well. It felt like we were at the hotel room, but we woke up in the second period,” Tedenby said. “We skated more and played with more intensity. I’m pretty happy how well it went and we’re ready for the semi-finals now.”
With seven seconds left in the middle stanza, Jacob Josefson scored the fourth Swedish goal, and just 1:12 into the last period, Magnus Pääjärvi Svensson skated into the Finnish zone without much resistance to make it 5-0 for Sweden.
At 2:39 of the third, accompanied by much cheering from the fans, the Finns spoiled Markström’s shutout bid when Teemu Hartikainen scored on the 36th Finnish shot.
That remained the only highlight for the Finns, as Josefson scored his second goal of the night with 7:07 left, and captain Marcus Johansson added one more late tally for a final score of 7-1.
With the victory, Sweden finishes the Preliminary Round undefeated. They will play in the semi-finals on Saturday with the Czech Republic, Russia, Slovakia or Switzerland as the possible opponents.
The score of the evening game between the Czech Republic and Russia will decide whether Finland will remain in third place or move down to fourth place and the Relegation Round.
“We are very disappointed about the game. We must have scored in the beginning. Later on Sweden was playing very well and fast,” said Finnish forward Teemu Hartikainen. “We are pretty shocked about how the game ended. It’s not a happy New Year’s Eve for us. We must be more determined in front of the net. It looks like we don’t work hard enough to score the goals.”
(Nathan also is a writer for Maineiacs Post to Post and the Maine Hockey Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)