HELSINKI, FINLAND – Finland advances to the gold-medal game after defeating rival Sweden by a score of 2-1 in front of the home crowd at Hartwell Arena. As the Finns prepare to face the winner of the USA-Russia matchup, here are three takeaways from the game.
Lack of Discipline Does In Another Opponent of Finland
It appears the Swedes didn’t learn much from the tape of the Canada-Finland game. Just as the Canadians did, the Swedes ultimately lost by committing undisciplined penalties. The pivotal point came in the second period when they were penalized three times. The first Finnish goal although not directly scored on the power play, came right after the man advantage expired as they maintained puck possession in the zone.
Not long after, Finland would cash in on the power play to take a lead they would never relinquish. With 2:53 left to play, Sweden’s Andreas Englund was called for holding when Team Sweden couldn’t afford to be shorthanded.
Going into the matchup, special teams was a key to the game. The Swedes entered with the best penalty kill, while the Finns have been most efficient with the man advantage. Early on, the Swedes had the special teams advantage, but the tables turned in that telling second period. If Finland’s to be defeated, they can’t be given power-play opportunities.
Finland Gets Secondary Scoring
Although the trio of Jesse Puljujärvi, Sebastian Aho and Patrik Laine were named (and rightfully so) Finland’s three best players of the tournament, the Finns didn’t have to rely on their top line to win. They finally got support from their other lines.
Dallas Stars’ prospect Roope Hintz finished off of a beautiful pass from Mikko Rantanen. Also getting credited with an assist was Kasperi Kapanen (both Kapanen and Rantanen have been unexpectedly quit in this tournament thus far). The power-play goal came from Antti Kalapudas and again, the assists came from Rantanen and Kapanen.
If Finland’s to win the gold, the supporting cast will have to continue to contribute.
The Tale of Two Goalies
Both starting netminders played well. Swedish goalie Linus Solderstrom seemed to be a fortress in net until, Finland finally got one by him. Given Solderstrom’s strong play in the tournament, this came as no surprise.
The bigger story was the play of Finnish goalie Kaapo Kahkonen and the overall Team Finland defense. “Our defense played really well and our goaltender was amazing,” said Laine. “It’s an amazing feeling [to perform like that].”
The Finns seemed to beat the Swedes at their own game by playing positionally sound and disciplined hockey. It was unlikely Finland was going to win against Sweden with their previous freewheeling play, so they made the necessary adjustments.
The coaching of Jukka Jalonen cannot be understated. Not only was his team well prepared coming into this game, but he made the coaching decision of the tournament when he pulled Veini Vehvilainen from the net midway through the quarterfinal game against Canada.
Not only did the move lead to a come-from-behind victory against Canada, it’s propelled Finland into the gold-medal game. Since given the opportunity, Kahkonen has played exceptionally well. This gives the most offensively gifted team in the tournament a solid foundation. This combination will make Finland tough to defeat tomorrow night.