OTTAWA - After starting with two straight losses to Sweden and Russia, Finland will need top-notch goaltending from Harri Säteri to ensure that it moves on to the playoff round at the 2009 IIHF World Championship.
The big 19-year-old Tappara Tampere netminder, who’s currently rocking a 3.54 GAA and .870 save percentage in his second World Junior tournament, admitted his best is yet to come.
And the same goes for head coach Jukka Rautakorpi’s skaters.
“The first game was pretty good for me, but the second game against Russia wasn’t so good,” Säteri told IIHF.com. “A couple of goals were my fault. In the first game, we played badly in the first period, but then we played better in the next 40 minutes. But Sunday’s game was pretty bad.”
The biggest concern for Finland against Russia was the number of opposition tallies that came from bad turnovers, including both goals by sniper Nikita Filatov.
“We just need to be more careful in our own zone,” Säteri said. “I try to talk as much as possible to my defencemen.”
One difference between this year’s Finnish team and past editions is the lack of star defencemen. In fact, Joonas Järvinen is the only returning veteran from 2008. Certainly, there’s no one of the caliber of Joni Pitkänen or Sami Lepistö to protect Säteri’s cage.
“Even though we don’t have any stars, we try to work together as best we can,” Säteri said.
Up front, a future star for Finland is 16-year-old Mikael Granlund, the youngest player ever to suit up in the national team colours. The slick centre came into this tournament with 37 points in 23 points for the junior team of Kärpät Oulu, which has won four out of the last five SM-Liiga titles. Granlund has grabbed Säteri's attention.
“Granlund’s very young, but also very good,” said Säteri. “He’s a good guy, and he gets the job done. He’s got a lot of speed and he has good hands.
With Tappara, Säteri is performing creditably in his first SM-Liiga season. Despite recording just five wins in 16 games for captain Janne Ojanen’s club, Säteri sports a 2.07 GAA and .913 save percentage.
The 92-kg, 184-cm Toijala product is rewarding the confidence the San Jose Sharks showed by selecting him in the fourth round (106th overall) in this year’s NHL Draft. His favourite netminder is Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo, but he’s also excited about potentially following in the footsteps of Sharks-drafted Finnish goalies like Miikka Kiprusoff and Vesa Toskala.
“I’ve heard that San Jose has very good goalie coaching,” said Säteri. “I’m happy to have been drafted by the Sharks, and hopefully in a couple of years I can play there.”
In his spare time, Säteri enjoys golfing, watching NFL football games, and relaxing in a traditional Finnish sauna. But there’ll be plenty of time for that in the off-season. How about the upcoming World Junior battles with Latvia and Slovakia?
“We need to play our own game and trust ourselves,” said Säteri. “We know we can play. We just need to go get the job done.”