Finland cruises to easy victory
Overnight 20cm of snow fell in the metro Halifax area. That, however, did little to damper the mood of the city for the start of the IIHF World Junior Championships that got underway today. The first match-up pitted one of the pre-tournament favorites, Finland, against Germany, which is making its first appearance in the tournament in five years. In the end, the outcome was what one might have expected as Finland cruised to a 4-0 victory.
"We had two losses in the exhibition games," said Finish player of the game Sean Bergenheim, "so our goal was to turn things around tonight. We wanted to put a good game together, and we did that, but it is a long process, and we hope to be better in every game."
Germany relied on solid play from goaltender Dimitri Patzold to stay in the game, as the young netminder turned aside 34 of 38 shots directed at him. German player of the game, forward Marcus Kink, was quick to point out the good play between the pipes and blamed a lackluster first period for the defeat. "Our goalie played a great game, but we did not have as good of a first period as we would have liked."
Both teams came out flying in the first period, with Germany in particular playing their best hockey of the frame in the first few minutes. After taking a poor interference penalty in the third minute, the Germans surrendered a goal when Jussi Timonen let a shot go from the blueline that beat a screened Patzold.
Two minutes later, Germany found itself once again shorthanded, and although they successfully killed off the penalty, a face-off deep in the German zone seconds later proved fatal. Immediately off the draw the puck slid to Jussi Jokinen who wired home his first of two on the night.
After the game, German head coach Ernst Hofner cited those penalties as key factors to the loss. "We did not start too good, especially when you look at the penalties. We took three penalties in the first period, and all three we bad penalties to take. Finland is a great team and they scored twice against us, as a result of our penalties."
The second period was scoreless, thanks only to the play of Patzold as the period was marred by poor play by the Germans who were outshot 14-6 in the frame.
Both teams started the third period well, and, as in the first, the first few minutes of the game proved to be the best that Germany would put forward in the frame. After pressing hard for a goal to bring them within one, the Germans were completely demoralized by a scramble in front of their net that resulted in Sean Bergenheim firing home the third Finnish goal of the game. For Coach Hofner, this was truly the goal that ended the game. "Up until the third Finland goal we still felt as though we could win the game, but after that third goal we realized that any chance of winning had just been taken away."
Finland added one more marker, Jokinen’s second on a set play in the German zone, to make the final 4-0 for the Finns. Afterward, Jokinen said that he was much more pleased with the victory for the team than his pair of goals on the night. "Obviously it feels good to score, but we had to win tonight, so I would be just as happy with no goals, as long as we won the game."
Finland now enjoys a day off before playing cross-border rivals Sweden on Saturday night, while Germany must rebound quickly for a game tomorrow against the Czech Republic. Both games are in Halifax.
Finland opens U20 with a shutout victory
The 2003 World Junior Hockey Championship kicked off in Halifax, NS with a 4-0 Finland win over Germany. The game started quickly, with the Finnish team flying up and down the ice and the Germans struggling to keep up the pace. A penalty to Germany’s Dirk Wrobel led to a power-play goal by Jussi Timonen at 2:10 of the first period. Timonen had a chance to score on a two-on-one shortly after, but couldn’t put it in the net.
At 8:38 of the first, the line of Henrik Jutunen, Tuomo Ruutu and Jussi Jokinen worked together off the face-off to score Finland’s second goal of the game.
Both goalies were tested early in the second period, with the Germans looking like they had gotten rid of the first-game jitters that plagued them in the first period, giving up some easy goals. "Next time we want to play a little bit easier, not so much hectic," said German goalkeeper Dmitri Patzold. "The fans really helped us; they were on our side."
The Germans opened the third with Dirk Wrobel getting a breakaway.He was stopped by Lehtonen, again looking very comfortable in net. At 3:40 of the period, a scramble of players around the German goalkeeper Dmitri Patzold caused a goal by Sean Bergenheim, Finland’s player of the game. Finland then settled down to protect their 3-0 lead, out-muscling the Germans to every loose puck.
The final goal of the game was Jussi Jokinen’s second, coming at 16:49 of the third. Assists came from Henrik Jutunen and Tuomo Ruutu. Kari Lehtonen was the winning goalie, earning his first shutout of Round Robin play.
Some 8,923 fans attended the game, warming up for the Canada-Sweden game. Finland’s next game is on December 28, against Sweden, and Germany is playing on December 27, against Czech Republic. Both will take place in Halifax.
With the joy of Christmas a day behind, the people of Nova Scotia turn their attention to another long awaited festivity. After more than a year of anticipation, the crowd will be out in full force to watch game one at the Metro Centre, which pits Team Finland and Team Germany in an all European opener.
Team Finland enters the tournament coming off a tough loss to Canada. After gaining a 3-1 advantage midway through the second period the team looked fatigued, and fell 6-3.
Finland enters the tournament sporting one of the most prominent young goaltenders in recent history. Kari Lehtonen, taken second overall in this years entry draft by the Atlanta Thrashers, has gone on record saying that his team would be in this years final. With a platoon of gifted playmakers in front of him he might not be wrong. Lehtonen was not between the pipes against Canada and should be very eager to see his prediction through.
A very hungry German squad will be the first to stand in the way of Lehtonen’s prognostication, and their sights will be set on proving that they belong with these other teams. Germany won the right to return to Pool A by winning Pool B last year, and their exhibition results thus far have shown that they will not be pushed around. After falling to the always powerful Swedes on Saturday 5-2 the Germans battled Belarus to a 2-2 draw on Sunday. That game featured 31 penalties, as either side was prepared to give an inch. German net minder Patrick Ehelechner has looked sharp by times and does possess the ability to steal a game or two for his Nation.
Two teams with high expectations should provide the Halifax crowd with an exciting game while trying to start the tournament off with a win. Look for Finland to try and dictate a fast pace and exude their superiority over the lesser Germans. Look for the scrappy Germans to show the Finns the heart that got them here.
Junior hockey fans, lets get ready to rumble….
by Forest Kenney
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André Brin Director, Communications | Directeur, communications