Granlunds lead Finns to semis

Slovaks lose 8-5, Barkov becomes youngest Finn ever to score

02.01.2012
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Scotiabank Saddledome Calgary Alberta Canada

Finland's Markus Granlund and Teemu Pulkkinen celebrate after the quarter-final win over Slovakia. Photo: Andy Devlin / HHOF-IIHF Images

CALGARY – Mikael and Markus Granlund combined for three of four Finnish goals in the second period to blow open a 2-2 tie and send Finland on its way to the semi-finals against Sweden with an 8-5 win. Slovakia will now play in the 5th-place game on Wednesday. The Finland-Sweden semi-finals will be played at 3.00 pm Calgary time on Tuesday. Mikael finished with a goal and three assists while Markus had two goals and an assist. Mikael now leads the tournament with eleven points (2+9). Finn Aleksander Barkov, at age 16 years, four months, became the youngest player ever to score in U20 play for Finland. Earlier in the day another 16-year-old scored. Oliver Bjorkstrand notched a goal against Switzerland in the relegation round, but he was 16 years, 8 months, 23 days old. "This was a good game for us, a good victory," said Teemu Pulkkinen. "We didn’t play as well as we should have, but we won the game, and that’s the only thing that matters."

Joel Armia got the opening goal on a lucky play for Finland. He circled the Slovak goal and threw a pass in front to no one in particular, but Matej Bene tried to control the puck only to see it go off his stick and past goalie Juraj Simboch at 4:29. "I think we’ve tried to forget the first game against Canada," said Armia in refence to the Finns' 8-1 loss to open the 2012 U20. "We have gotten better and better after that game, and I think we’re going to keep it up."

The Finns controlled play most of the period but Slovakia tied the game after killing off a lengthy two-man disadvantage. Matus Chovan jumped on a loose puck in the slot and snapped it over the glove of Sami Aittokallio at 14:24. Just eight seconds later, off the ensuing faceoff, the Finns reclaimed their lead. Roope Hämäläinen took a long shot on Simboch, but he failed to hold it, and in the scramble that ensued Hämäläinen potted the puck in the open net with the goalie down on his belly outside the crease. A couple of minutes later the Slovaks almost tied the game again, but Richard Mraz’s shot off the right wing clanged off the far post and stayed out. In the last minute, though, they did tie things up. Marek Tvrdon’s point shot on the power play fooled Aittokallio under the glove, and the teams headed to the dressing room after 20 minutes engaged in a surprising 2-2 tie. The Finns scored three quick goals early in the second thanks to the Granlunds. Their first came on a power-play goal at 5:42 with only three seconds left in it. Mikael Granlund nailed a wrist shot over the glove of Simboch from the top of the far faceoff circle to give Suomi another lead, this at 3-2. A minute later, brother Markus took a perfect cross-ice pass from Teemu Pulkkinen in the Slovakia end and blew a one-timer past Simboch that hit the middle bar in the net and rocketed out before many people had realized it had gone in. The brothers then combined for another. Mikael made a beautiful rush only to be pokechecked at the last by Simboch, but Markus got to the puck first and fired a low shot through the goalie’s pads. That was all for Simboch, and Dominik Riecicky came on in relief. He fared little better, allowing a goal on his first shot, a nice rush by the 16-year-old Barkov which he finished with a deke at 11:45 to make it 6-2 and more or less ice the game. The Slovaks got one back on a slightly controversial play. Martin Marincin’s long shot was deflected by Chovan in front with what the Finns thought was a high stick. The puck came right to Mraz at the back side of Aittokallio and he fired it into the empty net. Martin Daloga made it a 6-4 game at 4:59 of the third with one of those “it’s not over yet” goals, claiming a loose puck along the boards and firing under the blocker of Aittokallio, perhaps the first weak goal the netminder has allowed this tournament. His teammates stormed back, though, with two late power-play goals from Joonas Donskoi and Teemu Pulkkinen. Marko Dano closed out the scoring with a final goal for Slovakia. "Sweden has a very good team," said Markus Granlund. "We’ll have to play well if we want to beat them. We have to play better defensively, play hard and skate more." Brother Mikael concurred. "It’s like the playoffs – you just need to win. Now we’ve won, and tomorrow there’s a new game ahead of us. We’ll need to play as well defensively as we can." ANDREW PODNIEKS
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