VESALAINEN SCORES HAT TRICK, FINNS INTO U17 SEMIS FOR FIRST TIME SINCE 1995
JASON LA ROSE
SARNIA, Ont. – Kristian Vesalainen led the way with a hat trick, and Finland advanced to the semifinals at the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge with a 5-1 quarter-final win over Slovakia on Thursday afternoon.
It’s the first time the Finns will be among the final four at a full tournament since 1995, when they won a silver medal. Finland won bronze in 1998, the year two half-field under-17 events were held.
Joona Koppanen and Tarmo Reunanen had the other goals, while Otto Somppi added two assists for the Finns, who will face the winner of Thursday night’s Canada Red-Russia quarter-final in Friday’s semifinals.
Samuel Solensky was the lone goal scorer for Slovakia, which will finish its tournament in Friday’s seventh-place game in Lambton Shores, Ont. (3 p.m. ET).
Vesalainen got the scoring started just past the eight-minute mark of the first period, swinging out from behind the Slovak net and jamming the puck past netminder David Hrenak, and added a second 10 minutes later, knocking in a loose puck in front for a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.
Koppanen made it a three-goal game at 7:56 of the second, tapping in a pass from Juha Jääskä after Jääskä did the hard work behind the net.
Solensky converted a Slovak power play at 13:43, sneaking a slap shot under the arm of Finnish goaltender Leevi Laakso for his team’s second goal of the tournament, but Vesalainen finished his hat trick just 17 seconds later, wiring a wrist shot just under the cross bar to the short side of Hrenak.
Reunanen closed off the scoring three minutes into the third with the Finns holding the man advantage.
Both teams finished 1-for-4 with the power play, and Finland held a wide advantage in shots on goal, 31-15.