Norway struck first through Patrick Thoresen, but Eeli Tolvanen sparked a revival as Finland collected its second win in Gangneung.
Eeli Tolvanen scored twice to help Finland overcome an early deficit and ease to a 5-1 victory against its Nordic neighbour.
Not many would have expected Norway to open the scoring in this one. Recent history has not been kind to the team, and you have to go back to 1994 for the last time the Norwegians won a game at the Olympics. That was a 3-1 classification round encounter with Austria in Lillehammer, good enough to lift the host nation one place above 10th and last place in the ranking. Moreover, Norway’s campaign in Korea began yesterday with a 0-4 loss to Sweden, while Finland eased to a 5-2 victory over the Germans.
But an early power play chance was gobbled up by veteran forward Patrick Thoresen in the seventh minute. Thoresen collected the puck following a massed scramble in front of Mikko Koskinen’s net and smashed it past his SKA clubmate to give Norway an unexpected 1-0 lead.
Finland, stung, pressed for a rapid response. But it took a Norwegian penalty – the third of the period – before the Leijonat drew level. Tolvanen, the latest star to emerge from the Finnish hockey production line, did the honours, meeting Sami Lepistö’s pass with a devastating one-timer that found its way through Lars Haugen’s defences.
Lepistö, who would add a power play goal of his own later in the game, is impressed with the Finns’ PP – not just its effectiveness, but the frequency with which the team draws penalties.
“Our third and fourth lines are really good at battling in the corners,” he said. “They take that first hit and keep their feet moving and I think that’s a big key because the opposition defence can’t really keep up for long shifts and they have to take penalties.
“We get our power play that way, and our power play is really clicking right now.”
And it was Tolvanen – who else – who supplied the energy on Finland’s offense at the start of the second period. His trademark wrister drew a good blocker save from Haugen, but the Norwegian goalie had no answer in the 26th minute when the Jokerit youngster put the Finns in front. Jukka Peltola’s feed set Tolvanen off to the races and he showed great composure to beat the netminder with a well-executed deke. The 18-year-old now has three goals and three assists from two Olympic performances, and seems poised to justify all the pre-tournament hype around him by adding the much-needed spark to a Finnish forward line that looked better at hard work than fluent attacking play.
“I’m feeling pretty good about my own play,” Tolvanen said. “I like scoring in every game, this is a big thing for me, but I’m just trying to go out and play my game, and have some fun.”
Tolvanen also paid tribute to the team around him. “We look really good,” he added. “Our power play is scoring, we’re winning the puck, we’re creating chances. And we’re defending together. I think everyone is playing for the team.”
Norway, meanwhile, threatened to spoil Tolvanen’s fun in the middle period. Only a video review prevented it from tying the scores as Jani Lajunen sat out a penalty midway through the second period. Mathis Olimb smashed the puck into the goal after a shot bounced back off the boards, but the video showed it had come back into play off the netting and the play was ruled out.
The Norwegians never got as close again. Early in the third, Finland extended its advantage after a breakdown in communication between Haugen and defenceman Alexander Bonsaksen saw Veli-Matti Savinainen steal the puck on the slot. The KHL-based forward gratefully accepted the gift to make it 3-1 and leave Norway with too much to do. And another power play saw Finland make it four when Sami Lepistö fired home from the blue line as Joonas Kemppainen put up a big screen on Haugen.
“Usually I like to give the pass there, but it was such a great screen from Kemppainen and I could see the lane and I went for it,” Lepistö added. “It ended up going in!”
A passage of play late on summed up Norway’s luck. Stefan Espeland’s shot from the point was deflected past Koskinen, but bounced to safety off the post. Then, at the other end, Sakari Manninen added a fifth after more hesitant defence left Haugen exposed once again.
Finland improves to 2-and-0 in Gangneung, and will secure top spot in Group C – and with it a bye to the quarter-finals – if it gets the better of Sweden in its final game of the opening phase.
IHLC: With the win, Finland retains the International Hockey Lineal Championship, their 52nd, which they won in pre-Olympic action over Czechia and retained in their tournament opener against Germany. The win marks the first IHLC meeting between Finland and Norway since the 2014 Sochi Games, a 6-1 Finnish victory, and the win today improves the Finns’ record all-time over Norway to 11-1-1 in 13 meetings, dating back to 1951. Finland will now meet border rivals Sweden in the Group C finale, with the winner taking the group and getting a bye straight into the Quarterfinals.
04:50 – PEN – Kontiola, interference
06:29 – PP GOAL – P. Thoresen (Kristiansen, K. Olimb)
07:15 – PEN – S. Thoresen, holding
10:23 – PEN – M. Olimb, hooking
16:15 – PEN – Nørstebø, tripping
16:36 – PP GOAL – Tolvanen (Lepistö)
21:33 – PEN – Kontiola, tripping
25:32 – GOAL – Tolvanen (Peltola)
30:09 – PEN – Lajunen, hooking
42:59 – GOAL – Savinainen (Koskiranta)
47:33 – PEN – Rosseli Olsen, slashing
47:54 – PP GOAL – Lepistö (Kontiola)
48:28 – PEN – Kukkonen, roughing
51:05 – PEN – Rosseli Olsen, holding
53:09 – PEN – Ødegaard, high sticking
56:48 – GOAL – Manninen (Kontiola)
W: Koskinen (21-22)
L: Haugen (25-30)
SHOTS ON GOAL
10+9+11 = 30
5+8+9 = 22
Goaltenders: Mikko Koskinen, Juha Metsola. Defence: Miro Heiskanen, Juuso Hietanen, Tommi Kivistö, Miika Koivisto, Lasse Kukkonen (C), Sami Lepistö (A), Atte Ohtamaa. Forwards: Jonas Enlund, Teemu Hartikainen, Julius Junttila, Joonas Kemppainen, Petri Kontiola (A), Jarno Koskiranta, Jani Lajunen, Sakari Manninen, Oskar Osala, Jukka Peltola, Mika Pyörälä, Veli-Matti Savinainen, Eeli Tolvanen.
Goaltenders: Lars Haugen, Henrik Haukeland. Defence: Alexander Bonsaksen, Stefan Espeland, Jonas Holøs (C), Johannes Johannesen, Mattias Nørstebø, Henrik Ødegaard, Daniel Sørvik. Forwards: Anders Bastiansen, Kristian Forsberg, Tommy Kristiansen, Ken André Olimb, Mathis Olimb (A), Aleksander Reichenberg, Niklas Roest, Mats Rosseli Olsen, Martin Røymark, Eirik Salsten, Patrick Thoresen (A), Steffen Thoresen, Mathias Trettenes.