FINNS SPOIL START OF NEW ERA, BEAT CANADA WHITE IN U17 OPENER
JASON LA ROSE
SARNIA, Ont. – Pete Niemi scored the game-winning goal eight minutes into the second period – the second of five unanswered goals – to help Finland to a 5-1 victory over Canada White in the opening Group A game for both Sunday at the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
The game was the first ever at the tournament to include a Canadian national team, after close to 30 years of regional representation for Canada at the under-17 level.
Otto Somppi, Janne Kuokkanen, Otto Mäkinen and Eetu Tuulola joined Niemi as goal scorers for Finland, which won just its third preliminary round game in 13 tries at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, dating back to the 2010 tournament in Timmins, Ont.
Tyson Jost (Kelowna, B.C./Penticton, BCHL) scored the lone goal for the Canadians.
After an early Canadian goal was waved off due to goaltender interference, Jost put Canada White ahead at 11:27 of the opening period, snapping a shot past Finnish netminder Leevi Laakso on a Canadian power play.
But the Finns answered less than two minutes later, with Somppi jamming in a loose puck after a scramble in the Canadian crease to send the game to the first intermission tied 1-1.
Niemi gave the Scandinavians their first lead at 7:52 of the second, finishing off a two-on-one with Juha Jääskä, and Kuokkanen went low to the glove side on Canadian netminder Samuel Harvey (Alma, Que./Rouyn-Noranda, QMJHL) on a partial breakaway at 12:38 for a two-goal advantage.
Mäkinen capped an impressive period for Finland with just 2.5 seconds left in the middle frame, taking Harvey and the puck into the net after being pulled down by a Canadian defender.
Tuulola had the lone goal in the third period to round out the scoring.
Laakso earned the victory in the Finnish net with 27 saves, including a number of point-blank stops in the final five minutes, while Harvey turned away 23 of 28 in a losing cause for Canada White.
The Canadians are back on the ice Monday night at the RBC Centre when they face Canada Black in the preliminary round’s lone all-Canadian match-up (7 p.m. ET), while Finland meets Russia in Monday’s early game (3 p.m. ET).