COLOGNE – They didn't come easy, but Finland took the three points it so desperately wanted. Jarkko Immonen's lone goal took Finland past Germany and the U.S. in the Group D standings.
Finland's goaltender Petri Vehanen recorded a shutout, making 27 saves.
"Hero? I would say Vehanen was our hero, the way he made the necessary stops in the last period. We played well for 40 minutes, but the last 20 we just stood and watched them play," said Immonen.
"We played a much better game than against Denmark. Our defense was solid, and they only had a half a dozen chances," added Vehanen.
Nobody knew what to expect with the game between Finland and Germany. The Finns, having lost their opening game against Denmark, had to beat Germany to close the door to the relegation round games. And Germany, in turn, came to the game with the OT win over the U.S. giving them wind in their sails.
That, and the home crowd.
"This was the biggest crowd that I've ever played in front of. I liked it a lot," said Vehanen.
The home crowd wasn’t scary, after all. The Germans score early and make things difficult for the Finns that way. While they managed to keep Finland off the board in the first period, they didn’t pose a threat to the Finns, either, and the first period was mostly forgettable.
Finland outshot Germany 15-5 in the first period, and most of the German shots came on their powerplay halfway through the period when Tommi Santala took a two-minute roughing penalty.
The Finns showed up in the second period. The German team didn’t get an inch of space on the ice, while the Finns cycled the puck in the German zone minutes on end.
Just 5:18 into the second period, Jussi Jokinen forechecked the puck behind the net, got to the front of the net were Jarkko Immonen sent it to the back of the net, beating German goaltender Rob Zepp.
“We still have a good chance (to go to the next round). It is in our hands. They had to win tonight. They were desperate," Zepp said.
At the halfway point, the Finns had outshot Germany 21-8. The Germans made it a little too difficult for themselves by drawing penalties. However, when Michael Wolf returned to the ice after his hooking penalty, he raced to a loose puck in the neutral zone and found himself face-to-face with Vehanen, but couldn’t capitalize on his chance.
"I tried to yell to the guys that he'd get out soon, but they couldn't hear me," said Vehanen
The third period was where the home crowd woke the team up. Germany outshot Finland 5-2 in the first five minutes, and created several scoring chances.
But to the disappointment of their fans, not one goal.
"Every loss is a tough loss to take, especially when it is 1-0. We knew it would be a one-goal game," said Germany's defenceman Alexander Barta.
"The Finns played very desperate and they had to be," he added.
The win was important for the Finns who now have their fate in their own hands. A win over the U.S. will take them to the qualification round. Germany has to beat Denmark to avoid relegation round.
"It is up to us now. It is a decision game. We will be well prepared," Barta said.