Ain't no party like a Raty party
by Lucas Aykroyd|28 DEC 2019
Finland's Aku Raty (#35) scored twice in an 8-1 victory over Slovakia on Saturday at Trinec's Werk Arena.
photo: Matt Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images

Seven different scorers propelled Finland to an 8-1 romp over Slovakia on Saturday afternoon in Trinec, sending the partisan Werk Arena crowd home disappointed.

It was the most lopsided result at these World Juniors thus far, and does not bode well for Slovakia's improving on its eighth-place finish last year. Finland, the defending champion, dominated possession and played its trademark tight defence.

"I think we played much better than a couple of days ago," said Finland's Kristian Tanus, who now shares the team points lead (4) with Patrik Puistola. "We worked harder and we didn't make as many mistakes as we did against Sweden. When we had a scoring chance, we scored. That was good."

Forward Aku Raty starred with two goals for Finland. Aatu Raty (his brother and Karpat Oulu teammate), Joonas Oden, and Puistola chipped in a goal and an assist apiece. Mikko Kokkonen, Eemil Erholtz, and Ville Petman added singles. Tanus, Sampo Ranta, and Matias Macelli each picked up two assists.

"Obviously it's nice to score two goals," Aku Raty said. "I think I played pretty well in every aspect of the game. So I'm happy."

Assistant captain Robert Dzugan had the lone goal for Slovakia.

Finnish goalie Justus Annunen, who shone in the opening 3-2 overtime loss to Sweden, recorded 25 saves. Slovakia's Samuel Vyletelka made his World Junior debut between the pipes. He had 19 saves on 25 shots before being replaced by Samuel Hlavaj in the second period. Final shots favoured Suomi 40-26.

"I think Justus is the best goalie in the tournament," Tanus said. "He played a pretty good game again. It helps the team that we have a good goalie."

From the get-go, Slovakia took too many penalties, a recurring theme from their 5-3 win over Kazakhstan.

Coach Raimo Helminen's team opened the scoring with their second man advantage on a wild scramble in front of the net. A lunging Vyletelka lost his goalie stick and Puistola backhanded the puck into the gaping cage for his second goal of the tournament at 4:54. 

Vyletelka stopped Ranta on a partial breakaway midway through the first. However, Ranta got loose again a few minutes later, and powered to the net off right wing. Aatu Raty couldn't convert the rebound, but poor coverage enabled Aku Raty to bang it in for a 2-0 lead at 14:21.

"I would say we just started off badly," said Vyletelka. "You can't start a game against a team like this in the penalty box."

Early in the second period, Slovakia's deflating inability to score with a two-man advantage for 1:20 signalled that this just wasn't their day.

Asked to weigh in afterwards on that 5-on-3, Vyletelka said: "I can't really judge it, you know? I'm a goalie and I'm there to stop the pucks. We had a few chances. Unfortunately we didn't bury them."

Finland vs. Slovakia - 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship

Seven different scorers propelled Finland to an 8-1 romp over Slovakia on Saturday afternoon in Trinec, sending the partisan Werk Arena crowd home disappointed.

FIN SVK 28 DEC 2019

There was nothing pretty about it when Oden made it 3-0 on the power play at 7:15, with Vyletelka caught sprawling out of his crease. Touted as a potential #1 overall NHL draft pick in 2021, Aatu Raty did his best Kaapo Kakko impression to make it 4-0, tucking in a wraparound at 8:26.

Aku Raty was jazzed for his 17-year-old brother's first World Junior goal: "That was pretty nice. I haven't seen him do a wraparound like that at all before!" And Tanus added: "He's a skillful player. He's young, but he's playing a hard game. He likes to hit and play with the puck. I like his game."

At 13:14, Vyletelka couldn't track the puck through traffic when Kokkonen sent a high wrist shot from the right point for a 5-0 lead. Eemil Erholtz floated another one through the newbie goalie at 14:51, ending Vyletelka's night.

Slovakia spoiled Annunen's shutout bid with 3:26 left in the middle frame, as Dzugan redirected Daniel Vladimir Tkac's shot in front. Yet at 19:30, Aku Raty restored Finland's six-goal edge with a zinger from the high slot.

In the third period, Petman converted a solo shorthanded rush at 12:03 to  round out the scoring at 8-1.

"It's just a good experience to play against teams like this," Vyletelka said. "It's different. We can only surprise here. It shows in our eyes what is the difference on the world stage."

The Finns are coming off a much better World Junior decade than Slovakia. Yet recent history shows they were wise not to take coach Robert Petrovicky’s team lightly.

At the 2015 tournament in Montreal, Finland also entered as champs, but lost 2-1 early in the preliminary round to Slovakia, featuring Denis Godla in net. The Finns ultimately came seventh while the Slovaks stunned Sweden for the bronze medal.

Since then, including Saturday's outcome, Finland has defeated Slovakia four straight times, and enjoys an overall advantage of 11 wins, one tie, and four losses.

Finland played without forward Rasmus Kupari. The 19-year-old Los Angeles Kings prospect sustained a knee injury against Sweden and is out for the rest of the World Juniors. Antti Saarela took Kupari’s place on the line with Macelli and Lenni Killinen.

The Finns confront winless Kazakhstan on Sunday, while Slovakia will try to get back on track against Switzerland on Monday.

"We have to throw this game behind our heads" said Vyletelka. "We have an off-day tomorrow. So we're going to refocus and get ready for Switzerland."

Finland vs. Slovakia - 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship