REGINA Ė Opportunistic Russia beat Finland 2-0 in Monday's lone Regina game to set up a showdown with unbeaten Sweden for first place in Group B on Tuesday. Goalie Igor Bobkov shone as Russia was outshot 46-17.
Captain Nikita Filatov led the Russian attack with a goal and an assist. Petr Khokhriakov also scored for the Russians.
Bobkov, playing just his second World Junior game, did well at the 2009 World U18 tourney, posting a 92.7 save percentage in six appearances. Here, he did everything right, stopping shots through traffic and demonstrating great rebound control.
"It was a hard game," said Bobkov. "Against Austria it wasn't this tough. But I wasn't surprised by how hard Finland came at us. They like to play a fast game."
Looking ahead to Sweden, Filatov said: "They've got a perfect goaltender and great defence. They're scoring so many goals right now. Against them, we can't take so many penalties and make so many mistakes on defence. Of course, everybody hopes Bobkov will make 65 saves, probably [smiles], but we can't make him so tired. We need to play a better game."
Unlike the Finns' dramatic 4-3 opening win over the Czechs, they couldn't muster a comeback here. Although the Finns have fired more than 40 shots on goal in each game, the only player with at least two points so far is defenceman Sami Vatanen. Aces like Mikael Granlund and Toni Rajala remain goalless.
Finnish coach Hannu Jortikka wasn't happy. "We have a problem in Finnish hockey that we donít have enough goal scorers," he said. "We have a young team that doesnít have enough players that are strong enough in front of the net. Today that was a big problem. The rink is also different here than in Europe, which means that we need more pressure in front of the net."
The game got off to a high-tempo, relatively physical start. At 6:51, Russia opened the scoring when Filatov dished a beautiful backhand pass on the rush to Khokhriakov, who tipped it past Joni Ortio. The Finnish netminder had some work to do in the first period, foiling two breakaway attempts. But it was his opposing counterpart who would have to sweat.
Mid-period, the Finns peppered Bobkov with a delayed penalty coming up to Anton Klementyev and during the subsequent power play. But they couldn't break through, a pattern they repeated at the end of the period when Nikita Pivtsakin was penalized.
The Finns came out aggressively in the second period, buzzing the Russian net and hemming their opponents in. Near the midway point, they'd outshot Russia by a 2-to-1 margin. Bobkov kept his team in the game.
Against the flow, Filatov scored with the man advantage to put Russia up 2-0, stepping in off the left point and beating Ortio high to the glove side at 9:16.
"Filatov scored an important goal for us," Bobkov said.
The Russians got another momentum boost when big assistant captain Yevgeni Timkin shook up Jere Sallinen with a clean open-ice hit in the Russian zone. Shortly afterwards, Timkin was shaken up himself when Jasse Ikonen ran him into the boards from behind.
A penalty parade ensued, winding up in a 4-on-3 Russian man advantage. But the Finns defended tenaciously, and Iiro Pakarinen nearly got his country on the board when he raced on in a break after coming out of the sin bin.
The Russians spent lots of time on the penalty kill, taking five straight minors at one point, but the only price they paid was physical, such as when Granlund whacked defenceman Dmitri Orlov with his stick on a third-period slapshot attempt. The Finns continued to press, but seemed to be squeezing their sticks. Pekka Jormakka missed a glorious chance at Bobkov's left post.
Finland called a late timeout and then pulled Ortio for the extra attacker during a power play with under two minutes left. But the 6-on-4 advantage went nowhere.
"If we canít score a goal, we canít win the hockey game," Ortio said. "We played a great game, had a lot of shots, and controlled the game. We were just not able to score."
Attendance was 5,675. A cluster of fur hat-wearing fans in old CCCP jerseys enlivened the atmosphere with chants of "Let's go, Russia!"
Finland's next game is Wednesday versus winless Austria.
Together, Finland and Russia have accounted for six of the World Junior bronze medals handed out in the 2000's (Finland 2002-04 and 2006, Russia 2008-09).