BUDAPEST – Finland survived a serious scare from Japan in its final preliminary round game, putting the brakes on a third period comeback attempt by the Japanese to win 4-2 and advance to the playoff round. Canada is off to the semi-finals, earning the automatic bye with a 5-0 shutout of the Czech Republic. Japan – Finland 2-4 (0-1,0-1, 2-2)
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Emmi Raikkolainen scored two goals including the game winner, and goaltender Anni Keisala made 36 saves in the win, Finland’s first of the tournament.
"We started out well in the game, but along the way we started to slow down in getting back on defence, they are a very good team and we couldn't do that," said Raikkolainen.
Finland looked to be in control going into the third period, but despite being down 2-0 Japan kept up the pressure and it finally paid off with a goal from Olympian Rui Ukita 41 second into the frame. Then five minutes later the Olympian made a great play coming out from behind the Finnish net and curling around the Finnish defence to slide the puck home and tie the game 2-2.
Finland took a timeout as head coach laid into his players for giving up the tying goal, but the momentum was still completely on the Japanese end.
"He wasn't happy," sair Raikkolainen. "But he told us to just play our game and we would get our confidence back."
And the team listened. Keisala played very strong in net the rest of the way, making big saves including a point-blank stop on Ayuko Aoki. Soon after the save a defensive miscue by the Japanese allowed Matilda Nilsson to set up Rakkolainen on a breakaway, scoring the go-ahead goal with just under eight minutes left.
Finland will play Russia in the quarter-finals, while Japan is going to the relegation round. Despite the loss, Japan’s players should hold their heads high in an impressive effort, and will be a handful for whichever team they will face in the battle to avoid relegation to Division I.
Both teams played out a fast-paced back-and-forth opening frame, with the Japanese both outshooting the Finns and matching them for speed yet unable to get any pucks past goaltender Ani Keisala. Finland opened the game with a quick with a goal from Raikkolainen 37 seconds into the game. The Finns added a second courtesy of Suki Kayhko early in the second frame.
Following the game, forwards Raikkolainen and Ukita were selected as Best Players.
Canada – Czech Republic 5-0 (0-0, 2-0, 3-0)
BUDAPEST – Canada snapped the Czech Republic’s unbeaten streak at the 2014 IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship, scoring five unanswered goals to win 5-0 and claim the top seed in Group A. Click here for scores, stats, and photos
The Czechs were able to hang around through the first half of the game, but eventually Canada’s physical edge and offensive pressure proved too much to overcome.
“The Czech team came out really hard in the first period against us,” said Team Canada head coach Laura Schuler. “We had to make a couple of adjustments, and I think that our girls knew that they had more to give and I’m really happy and proud with how they played in the second and third period.”
At 11:42 into the second period, Canada’s Victoria Bach scored her fourth goal of the tournament, assisted by Breanne Wilson-Bennett and Stephanie Lalancette. Then a few minutes later Rebecca Leslie set up captain Lauren Wildfang in the slot on a four on four to give Canada a 2-0 lead going into the second intermission.
“Overall I think we did well, but going forward every game is going to be harder than the last one so we have to stay focused and on the details and we’ll be ok,” said Bach, who was selected as Best Player for Canada.
Goaltender Kassidy Sauve played well throughout the game, denying the Czechs on a two on one late in the second period, but she was nowhere near as busy as her counterpart at the other end Klara Peslarova, who faced 29 shots in two periods before being pulled for the third.
With backup Katerina Zechovska in net, the Czechs fell deeper in the hole when defender Klara Pelikanova had the puck in behind the net but gave up possession to Stephanie Lalancette. Lalancette found Eve-Audrey Picard in front of the net for Canada’s third goal of the game.
Soon after, Bach collected her sixth point of the tournament, finding an open Sarah Potomak at the side of the net with a pass to put Canada up 4-0. Then with three minutes left a shot from the point by Wildfang found its way through traffic to close out the game.
With the victory Canada finishes the preliminary round with a 3W-0L record and earns an automatic bye to the semi-finals. The Czechs will play Sweden in the quarter-finals tomorrow.
“We wanted to get some goals and play solid defensively but Canada played well today,” said Czech head coach Jan Fidrmuc. “We just have to get back to our game and move on, tomorrow we need be better on defence, and whoever we play it will be the best team that advances.”