ANNUNEN MAKES 33 SAVES AS FINNS BLANK CZECHS
SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. – Justus Annunen earned a 33-save shutout, and Finland beat the Czech Republic 3-0 in pre-tournament action Thursday ahead of the 2016 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
In a second period packed with penalties, Finland proved their special teams were just that, capitalizing on a two-man advantage late in the middle frame.
Niklas Nordgren picked up the puck off a clean face-off win and walked into the slot, beating Czech goaltender Tomas Vlk to the glove side just four seconds after the second penalty was called.
Although Czech Republic outshot Finland 11-8 in the first period, it was Finland with most of the momentum. Konsta Hirvonen fanned on a pass off a short two-on-one, and Arttu Nevasaari couldn’t beat Vlk on a breakaway from the blue-line.
But penalties got the better of the Czech Republic in the second, opening the door for the Nordgren goal.
Finland carried that momentum into the final 20 minutes, when Nordgren sent a perfect pass to Jesse Moilanen on the edge of the crease, and he gave Finland some breathing room and a 2-0 lead with just over 12 minutes to play.
The Finns handed the Czech Republic a 5-on-3 power play in the dying minutes, leaning on Annunen to maintain the two-goal advantage. Between the saves and the penalty killers clearing the zone, Finland ran out the clock on the two-man advantage.
There was another Finn in the box, however, when Vlk was pulled in favour of an extra attacker. Two-men down again, Finland cleared the zone, allowing Hirvonen to hit the empty net from the blue-line.
Finland will open up the preliminary round against Canada Red on Sunday afternoon (12 pm. ET), while the Czech Republic will face the United States in its first game (7:30 p.m. ET). Both games are at the Essar Centre.