Pekka, Predators Perform In Minsk

With the Nashville Predators and Milwaukee Admirals’ seasons ending due to a failed playoff birth and an early first round exit, respectively, this gave the players an opportunity to play at the world stage in Minsk, Belarus during May. The ten players (and prospects) participating for their respective nations at the 2014 IIHF World Championship were Ryan Ellis (Canada), Pekka Rinne, Miikka Salomaki and Juuse Saros (Finland), Mattias Ekholm and Calle Jarnkrok (Sweden), Roman Josi and Simon Moser (Switzerland) and Seth Jones and Craig Smith (USA). The team’s new head coach Peter Laviolette was selected to be the head coach of the Americans.

Pekka Rinne headlined the ten, earning tournament MVP and all-star honors with a 5-3 record, 1.88 goals against average, .928 save percentage and 3 shutouts. This is the second consecutive year a Predator has won the MVP in this tournament. Roman Josi won the honor when he led the Swiss to a silver medal. Rinne carried the Finns to a silver as well, falling 5-2 to the Russians. While the 6’5″ netminder was basking in success, 19-year old prospect Juuse Saros was left watching from the press box, unfortunately.

Admirals’ forward Miikka Salomaki did not adjust his gritty game to accustom the international rink and the style of play that comes with it. Salomaki totaled 18 penalty minutes in 10 games for Finland and was part at fault for the loss against Russia.

Alongside Rinne in receiving honors, Seth Jones was awarded best defenseman. Jones led all defensman in points (and tied totaled 2 goals, 9 assists and a +8 rating in 8 games. Teammate Craig Smith had another impressive WC’s performance, scoring 8 points (3 goals, 5 assists) in as many games. The lack of talent on the USA roster was not enough to surmount a medal-winning performance, as they were ousted in quarterfinals by the Czech Republic 4-3.

Mattias Ekholm, Calle Jarnkork and the rest of Team Sweden avenged the US in the bronze medal match, shutting out the Czechs 3-0. Ekholm had an eye-opening tournament and was responsible for scoring a game-winner in a 3-2 victory over host country Belarus in the quarters. That goal was 1 of 2 he netted and added 5 assists along with it. While Ekholm was scoring, Jarnkrok was not, despite averaging 13:24 of time on ice in 10 games.

Canada had a similar fortune as their neighbors to the south. Finland eliminated the Canadians in the quarters 3-2. Ryan Ellis was heavily relied upon as the “3rd defenseman” and totaled 1 goal, 4 assists and a +9 rating in 8 games.

After an impressive Worlds last year, Switzerland disappointingly returned finishing 3-0-1-3 (W-OTW-OTL-L) — not enough to qualify for the playoff rounds. Roman Josi led the team in points with 8 (1 goal, 7 assists) in 7 games, while Simon Moser had just 2 assists.