EDMONTON – Teemu Pulkkinen tied an IIHF U20 record with four goals in the third period to lead Finland to a 10-1 romp over Denmark in Edmonton and a place in the quarter-finals. The result also sent the Americans to the Relegation Round. Denmark, winless in four games, is also headed to relegation from Group B.
Although the win was by no means a surprise, the day’s events in Edmonton have been completely shocking. The Americans woke up this morning dreaming of playing New Year’s Eve against Canada with a bye on the line. By the time they went to sleep, they were irrevocably headed to the Relegation Round.
"We wanted to play the whole 60 minutes," Pulkkinen said. "We didn’t play so well, but Denmark wasn’t so good. We got easy goals. We need to be better against the Czechs."
A Danish win tonight would have given the U.S. a slim chance to advance, but that was all but scuppered when Danish coach Todd Bjorkstrand benched five players for disciplinary reasons. Even with a full roster of 20 a Danish victory would have been a longshot, but with a depleted roster, loss was all but certain.
"It was my decision to suspend them," Bjorkstrand said of his reaction to his players' hijinks in the media centre after their bad loss to Canada the day before. "We’re going out every game to win. I thought the guys who were here did well. We went out tonight playing hard and trying to compete and doing a good job for Denmark."
It took Finland 8:26 to get the first goal, that from Miikka Salomäki, who claimed a loose puck by the side of the net and beat Sebastian Feuk from a bad angle. Within three minutes, they increased the score to 3-0 thanks to goals from Jani Hakanpää and Ville Pokka, much to the delight of the pro-Finnish crowd.
The Finns made it 4-0 early in the second thanks to Mikael Kuronen, but the Danes gave the crowd a little something extra to cheer about when Patrick Bjorkstrand burst up ice, forcing Rasmus Ristolainen to haul him down and earn a penalty shot.
Bjorkstrand moved in on goalie John Gibson and fired between the pads, and the puck trickled over the goal line to make it 4-1. The brief joy of the moment was gone a minute later when Salomaki got his second of the night on a snap shot from the slot.
Joel Armia and Teemu Pulkkinen with the final four goals counted in the third, acknowledging their efforts with little fanfare and the game easily won. Pulkkinen's efforts tied Jan Vodila's record for most goals in a period. Czechoslovakian Vodila accomlished his feat on December 27, 1979, against the U.S. He also had a second-period assist to give him a five-point night.
"In the first two periods I didn’t score, I had good chances, hit the post. Then I just kept shooting and I was lucky," Pulkkinen said.
"It’s going to be exciting," said Danish captain Jannik Christensen of playing in the Relegation Round. "I’m positive that we’re going to make two good games there and stay up."
The Finns now play the Czechs in the early game tomorrow to decide second place in Group B while the Canada-United States game has little meaning in the standings but still has plenty of meaning for bragging rights.