Rule of thumb: if you can’t kill penalties, they will kill you. The Slovaks learned that the hard way on Sunday afternoon at Rogers Place. Brimming with confidence, Finland converted five times with the power play in a 9-3 dismantling of Slovakia.
It was a balanced Finnish attack under coach Antti Pennanen.
Kasper Simontaival set the tone with two goals and an assist, and Joel Määttä also had a big game with his first two World Junior goals for Finland. Kasper Puutio and Aatu Räty notched a goal and two assists. Captain Roni Hirvonen delivered a goal and an assist. Oliver Kapanen and Kalle Väisänen added singles. Topi Niemelä, Joakim Kemell and Roby Järventie each chipped in a pair of assists.
“We tried to do the simple things and find the free space and get the puck to the goal,” Kemell said.
Peter Repčík, Servác Petrovský and Libor Nemec replied for Slovakia, while captain Rayen Petrovický had two assists. The Slovaks finished their round-robin with two points in four games.
In net, Finnish backup Juha Jatkola – a 19-year-old Kuopio native who plays for KalPa – made his World Junior debut. For Slovakia, Šimon Latkóczy got his fourth consecutive start, but was replaced to start the third period by Tomáš Boľo.
Finland outshot the Slovaks 48-16. Getting pucks to the net and capitalizing on Slovak errors enabled the blue-and-white squad to stay unbeaten at these World Juniors.
“It was a tough game for us,” Petrovický said. “We gave up a lot of power plays. You can’t do that. It killed us. They scored five goals on our PK. That’s terrible. We can’t take so many penalties.”
The Finnish victory sets up a showdown with Canada on Monday for the top seed in Group A. The last round-robin meeting between these two rivals saw the Canadians win 4-1 on New Year’s Eve 2020 here in Edmonton.
“I’ve seen a couple of their games,” said Järventie. “They have a lot of great players. We need to play our best if we’re going to win, and that will mean being ready right away. We have to be careful with the puck. We can’t turn it over and allow too many odd-man rushes.”
On balance, 2022 has been an historic year for Slovak hockey, from the Olympic Bronze medal in Beijing to the NHL draft selections of forward Juraj Slafkovský (#1, Montréal) and defenceman Šimon Nemec (#2, New Jersey). However, so far in Edmonton, eking out a 3-2 shootout win over Latvia has been the highlight for coach Ivan Fenes’ crew.
Simontaival made it 1-0 Finland just 35 seconds in, thanks to some savvy captain-on-captain forechecking. Finland’s Hirvonen stole the puck down low from Petrovický and backhanded it to Simontaival at Latkóczy’s right post. Simontaival surprised the netminder with a quick short-side shot.
Slovakia answered back at 7:42. Seconds after Jatkola sprawled to foil Samuel Honzek’s one-handed attempt in tight, Repčík blasted home the equalizer through traffic. Pumped up, the Slovaks celebrated with fervour, but their joy wouldn’t last.
Finland’s power play – which went 3-for-6 in the first two games – got even hotter against Slovakia. When Adam Stripai was sent to the sin bin for slashing, Pennanen’s troops went to work with the man advantage.
Sticking with the process, the Finns moved the puck around patiently. With six seconds left in the power play, Määttä got loose in the right faceoff circle to zip a glove-side wrister home for a 2-1 edge at 14:02.
That goal brought smiles to the faces of local fans. The defensive-minded, Jokerit-schooled forward was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in the seventh round (222nd overall) this year.
Slovakia’s prospects dimmed further near the end of the first period when assistant captain Adam Sýkora took a five-minute major and game misconduct for kneeing on Kemell. Sýkora, just 17, had two goals and an assist in six men’s World Championship games in Finland back in May.
Psychologically, the Finns maintained their edge. They took a two-goal lead on their long 5-on-4 at 0:24 of the second period. Off Niemelä’s blast from the left faceoff circle, Hirvonen coolly sent the rebound into the gaping cage.
Jatkola was sharp to stop Repčík on a shorthanded breakaway moments later. The Slovaks got to the Finnish goalie at 7:04, though, as Nemec’s persistence on the puck in the left faceoff circle yielded the 3-2 goal by Petrovský.
The Finns just kept on coming. Määttä made it 4-2 at 11:42 on the power play. Stationed at the crease, he initially tipped Järventie’s pass off the post, but then banged the puck in.
“We had a lot of chances on the power play today,” said Järventie. “We created a lot of options and got a lot of shots. But I’m not surprised by our success. We practice it a lot and have been using that power play for quite a while now.”
With 3:19 left in the second period, Räty put the game out of reach at 5-2. Kemell’s cross-ice feed for the gifted New York Islanders prospect from Oulu bounced off the boards, but Räty showed good patience and waited to fire it over a lunging Latkóczy for his team-leading third goal.
At 18:08, Ruben Rafkin’s stretch pass sent Kapanen in alone, and he whipped it past Latkóczy for a 6-2 lead.
Finland’s fourth line continued the onslaught in the third period. After defenceman Matias Rajaniemi’s stick exploded on a slap shot, the puck slid to Juuso Mäenpää in front, and he slid it back to Väisänen, who had a wide-open net.
At 9:16, Nemec’s first World Junior goal on a deft tip reduced the gap to 7-3. But Simontaival’s redirect in front at 11:45 yielded Finland’s fourth power play goal, and Puutio zinged the puck in off the post at 15:17 for the fifth PP marker.
Slovakia’s latest loss to Finland wasn’t as quite ego-deflating as falling 11-1 to Canada – the most lopsided defeat against the powerful hosts that Slovakia has ever suffered at the World Juniors. Still, the Slovaks clearly have a lot of work to do heading into the quarter-finals – assuming Latvia does not upset Czechia to nab the last quarter-final berth in Group B.
With the loss, Slovakia’s all-time World Junior record against Finland drops to four wins, one tie, and 13 losses. Finland’s winning streak versus Slovakia extends to six games.
00:35 – 🇫🇮 GOAL – Simontaival (Hirvonen)
07:42 – 🇸🇰 GOAL – Repčík (Groch)
12:08 – 🇸🇰 PEN – Stripai, slashing
14:02 – 🇫🇮 PP GOAL – Määttä
19:11 – 🇸🇰 PEN – Sýkora, kneeing major + game misconduct
20:24 – 🇫🇮 PP GOAL – Hirvonen (Simontaival, Puutio)
24:54 – 🇸🇰 PEN – Nemec, tripping
27:04 – 🇸🇰 GOAL – Petrovský (Petrovický, Nemec)
30:53 – 🇸🇰 PEN – Mišiak, hooking
31:42 – 🇫🇮 PP GOAL – Määttä (Järventie, Kemell)
32:39 – 🇫🇮 PEN – Niemelä, roughing
32:39 – 🇸🇰 PEN – Petrovský, roughing
36:41 – 🇫🇮 GOAL – Räty (Kemell, Niemelä)
38:08 – 🇫🇮 GOAL – Kapanen (Rafkin, Järventie)
46:11 – 🇫🇮 GOAL – Väisänen (Mäenpää, Rajaniemi)
49:16 – 🇸🇰 GOAL – Nemec (Petrovický, Mišiak)
50:42 – 🇸🇰 PEN – Žabka, hooking
51:45 – 🇫🇮 PP GOAL – Simontaival (Puutio, Räty)
53:29 – 🇸🇰 PEN – Jedlička, interference
55:17 – 🇫🇮 PP GOAL – Puutio (Räty, Niemelä)
58:03 – 🇫🇮 PEN – Simontaival, high sticking
W: 🇫🇮 Jatkola (13-16)
L: 🇸🇰 Latkóczy (29-35), Boľo (10-13)
SHOTS ON GOAL
🇫🇮 17+18+13 = 48
🇸🇰 5+4+7 = 16
🇫🇮 Goaltenders: Juha Jatkola, Leevi Meriläinen. Defence: Aleksi Heimosalmi, Joni Jurmo, Topi Niemelä (A), Kasper Puutio (A), Ruben Rafkin, Matias Rajaniemi, Eemil Viro. Forwards: Roni Hirvonen (C), Roby Järventie, Oliver Kapanen, Roni Karvinen, Joakim Kemell, Ville Koivunen, Brad Lambert, Eetu Liukas, Juuso Mäenpää, Joel Määttä, Aatu Räty, Kasper Simontaival, Kalle Väisänen.
🇸🇰 Goaltenders: Tomáš Boľo, Šimon Latkóczy. Defence: Šimon Groch, Jozef Kmec, Dávid Nátny, Rayen Petrovický (C), Adam Stripai, Maxim Štrbák, Boris Žabka. Forwards: Jakub Demek, Dalibor Dvorský, Roman Faith (A), Samuel Honzek, Maroš Jedlička, Matej Kašlík, Martin Mišiak, Oleksij Myklucha, Libor Nemec, Servác Petrovský, Peter Repčík, Oliver Stümpel, Adam Sýkora (A).
|🇫🇮 FINLAND (C)
(since 23 Dec 2021)
|Last Title||30 Dec 2017|
|First IHLC Meeting (FIN vs. SVK)
🇫🇮 FIN 3-1 SVK 🇸🇰 – 02 Jan 2001 – WJC – Moscow 🇷🇺
|Previous IHLC Meeting (FIN vs. SVK)
🇫🇮 FIN 5-1 SVK 🇸🇰 – 15 Apr 2022 – FNC – Příbram 🇨🇿
|Last IHLC Game
🇫🇮 FIN 4-3 CZE 🇨🇿 (SO) – 11 Aug 2022 – WJC – Edmonton 🇨🇦
|Next IHLC Game
🇨🇦 CAN 6-3 FIN 🇫🇮 – 15 Aug 2022 – WJC – Edmonton 🇨🇦