REGINA – Finland defeated the Czech Republic 4-3 after rallying from a 3-0 deficit on Sunday. Earlier, Sweden beat Austria 7-3 for its second straight Group B win, but it wasn't as easy as expected.
Czech Republic – Finland 3-4 (2-0, 1-1, 0-3)
The Czechs lost 10-1 to Sweden on Day One, but against the other Nordic team, Finland, they seemed to be on track for three points as they led for 42 minutes. Yet how quickly that all evaporated. Joonas Rask scored the game-winning goal for Finland with 2:12 left, as the blue-and-white team came back after trailing 3-0.
The Czechs seemed to be the hotter team at the beginning. Although the Finns had more puck possession in the early stages, the Czechs showed more offensive flair and got Finland to take penalties.
Jasse Ikonen had sat in the sin bin for just 30 seconds when Tomas Kubalik beat Finnish goalie Joni Ortio for the first time at 12:23. The forward deflected a shot from the blue line from defenceman Vladimir Roth.
Three minutes later, Finland’s Mikael Granlund took another penalty and the Czechs scored again. Tomas Vincour, passing from behind the net, found Jan Kana, who extended the lead to 2-0.
The Czechs continued their scoring prowess in the middle frame when Roman Horak scored on a breakaway at 7:53. But anyone who assumed the Finns were done like dinner now was wrong.
The Finnish Lions got angry and started to play with greater intensity. The recipe paid off. Shortly after a scrum, the Finns finished off a quick attack with Teemu Hartikainen’s 3-1 goal at 17:13 of the second.
Early in the third stanza, everything went right for Finland as the Czechs ran into penalty trouble and Finland enjoyed a two-man advantage. Finnish defenceman Sami Vatanen, after taking a pass from goalie Ortio, encountered little resistance when he broke through the Czech defence to make it 3-2 at 3:40.
The tension increased as the end of the third period approached. The Finns put enormous pressure on Jakub Sedlacek’s goal.
At last they got the equalizer when Vatanen scored his second goal of the night on an even more spectacular rush at 54:46.
Three minutes later, Rask gave Finland the lead for good. The Finns didn’t give their opponent the chance to respond, and won their first three points of the 2010 tourney.
“I feel bad because we must win a game after leading 3-0,” Czech forward Jan Kana said. “Unfortunately we played so badly in the last period and couldn’t bring the puck away. Now we must win against Russia and Austria.”
While the Czechs are approaching the relegation round with two defeats in as many games, the three points could prove essential for Finland although it’s just the first of their four group-stage games.
“It was a great game for us. After I scored the first goal we played with more emotions and I think the Czechs were a bit tired at the end,” said Hartikainen.
The 18-year-old defenceman Sami Vatanen, who plays for JYP Jyväskylä in the Finnish top league and was drafted by the Anaheim Ducks, became the key player with his two goals.
“I just shot the puck in and I was a bit lucky when I scored the first goal. When I scored the second, I don’t know what the Czech defencemen did--they just moved away,” Vatanen said with a smile. “It was a big win for us.”
With a victory against the Czechs, the third-seeded team in the group, Finland did an important step towards the final round. And anything can happen there. “We can win the gold. That’s why we are here, of course,” said Vatanen.
Finland takes on Russia on Monday while the Czechs play Austria on Tuesday after a day off.
Austria – Sweden 3-7 (0-3, 3-1, 0-3)
The newly promoted Austrians clicked twice with the man advantage and managed to tie it up briefly after trailing by three goals in the second period. It was a one-goal game until late in the third.
Similar to their opening 6-2 loss to Russia, the Austrians did the best they could with the little they have, relying on hard work. Sweden, meanwhile, knows it must play better if it intends to capture gold at this tournament for the first time since 1981.
"No one expected us to win all the games easily," said Swedish head coach Par Marts. "It was a good experience for the guys to be under pressure and stay calm. The mystery of sports is how to focus right and be there when you need to be. Our third period was good."
In his first World Junior start, Swedish goalie Anders Nilsson earned the win with 21 saves. Marco Wieser had 47 stops for the Austrians.
Anton Rodin scored twice for Sweden, including the late second-period winner, and had an assist. Oliver Ekman-Larsson had two goals and an assist, while Jacob Josefson added a goal and two assists. Mattias Ekholm and Andre Petersson scored singles, and Adam Larsson had two helpers.
"It was a hard game," Rodin admitted. "We didn't see them coming as hard as they did. I'm glad we won the game."
Dominique Heinrich recorded a goal and an assist for Austria, while Alexander Pallestrang and Konstantin Komarek also scored.
"I think we've got a good team this year," said Heinrich. "Maybe something will work out for us and we can stay in the [top division]."
It took just 41 seconds for Sweden to draw first blood, as Josefson notched his first of the tournament. Despite outshooting Austria 14-3 in the opening period, Tre Kronor was slow to get its offensive game going, trading stick and restraining fouls with its opponents.
The Swedes didn't click again until Ekman-Larsson stepped in from the left point on the power play and hammered a high slapper home at 18:31.
Sweden got off to another fast start in the second period. At 2:41, Rodin casually lifted a backhand over Wieser's shoulder to make it 3-0.
But then the Austrians launched their comeback bid. They got a big cheer from the Brandt Centre crowd of 5,025 when their power play cut the deficit to 3-1 at 6:54. Pallestrang's drive from the center point beat Nilsson through traffic. The Austrians managed to clog up lanes and frustrate the Swedes for most of the remaining middle frame, which was another penalty parade.
With 3:19 left in the period, Heinrich got loose in the right faceoff circle and blasted a one-timer past Nilsson to make it 3-2 with the man advantage. The crowd erupted as the Austrian captain celebrated.
The Austrians made it 3-3 on a 2-on-1 rush as Heinrich fed a sweet cross-ice pass to Komarek, who made no mistake at 18:13. Now the building was buzzing.
"We're outsiders in this tournament, and everybody wants us to win and score against the big teams," said Heinrich. "We got emotion and momentum from the crowd cheering."
Yet thanks to a nice pass from Adam Larsson, Rodin scored a critical breakaway goal with 14 seconds left in the period to put Sweden ahead again.
The blue-and-yellow squad had a glorious chance to extend its lead when Austrian defenceman Marco Zorec took a four-minute minor for high-sticking early in the third. Yet the Austrians hung tough positionally and the Swedes struggled to keep the puck in at the blueline.
With 6:27 left, Ekholm finally put the game away for Sweden, making it 5-3 with a screened wrist shot from the blueline. Petersson added a bad-angle goal with a two-man advantage, and Ekman-Larsson had one more PP goal to make it 7-3 with 38 seconds remaining.
Heinrich was Austria's Player of the Game, and Ekman-Larsson was honoured for Sweden.
"It's awesome here, so different from Austria," said Heinrich. "Everybody loves hockey."
Sweden's next game is widely expected to be a showdown for top spot in Group B, as it faces Russia on Tuesday. The Austrians take on the Czechs earlier that day.
"We need to play our game against Russia, stay focused for 60 minutes," said Rodin. "We'll need to be a lot better. We can't relax."