Finns can’t keep up or buy a break
December 26, 2017
by Andrew Podnieks
“We had a pretty strong game,” offered defenceman Victor Mete, on loan from the Montreal Canadiens. “We took it to them in the first period, set the tone, and came out with the win. We have a lot of great skaters on this team, so if we can use our speed to our advantage, we will. It could have been a lot more than a 4-2 game, I think.”
Canada’s first goal was impressive. Boris Katchouk simply skated past two Finns to get to a loose puck and create a breakaway. He made a quick deke on goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, hitting the post as he pushed the puck past the goalie.
The puck then caromed off Luukkonen’s skate and went in. As this was happening, though, Katchouk crashed into the crossbar and pushed the net off its moorings. Video review showed the puck crossed the goal line while the pegs were still in contact with the holes, thus making for a “good hockey goal.”
Luukkonen was last seen in IIHF competition in April, leading Finland to a silver medal at the U18 championship in Slovakia. In fact, he is one of seven players from that team who have made the Finland roster for Buffalo.
Just 27 seconds later, Canada went up two goals thanks to a quick power-play conversion. Sam Steel snapped a loose puck into the net, sending the pro-Canadian crowd into a frenzy.
The Finns came right back, though, scoring their first at 12:19 when Hart inadvertently kicked a rebound right onto the stick of Aleksi Heponiemi. The Finn wasted no time in making it a 2-1 game.
Another quick strike, this just 33 seconds after Heponiemi’s goal, restored Canada’s two-goal lead. This time it was poor defence by Finland that allowed Jonah Gadjovich to set up Drake Batherson for the easy back-door conversion.
Canada held Finland at bay in an evenly played second period. The Finns made it 3-2 at 7:31 on the power play when Henri Jokiharju’s point shot went all the way. But Canada made it 4-2 five minutes later off a broken rush. Taylor Raddysh collected the puck and fired a quick floater that eluded Luukkonen.
“We had a three-on-two,” Raddysh described, “but it didn’t work out the way we wanted. I luckily got a shot off. It was a knuckleball and kind of went over the goalie’s pad. You have to take goals like that and just be happy it went in.”
The play of the game came off the glove of Canadian defenceman Callan Foote. He dove back to swat a rolling puck off the goal line midway through the third to keep it a 4-2 game. Video review showed the puck on the line–perhaps even partially over it–but the save helped preserve the victory.
Canada is right back at it, playing Slovakia tomorrow, while the Finns have a day to lick their wounds before facing Denmark on Thursday.
“We have to come out of this game and learn what we can do better for tomorrow,” Mete said.
The Canadians are right back to action Wednesday night, taking on Slovakia (7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT).