Finns go top of Group B
by Andy Potts|27 MAY 2021
photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images
Finland moved out in front in Group B with a comfortable victory over Italy. Today’s win takes the Leijonat to 10 points from four games while the Italians are still waiting to get off the mark here in Riga.

Defenceman Tony Sund led the way for the Finns with two goals – his first in World Championship play – as Jukka Jalonen’s team did a calm, professional job of closing in on a quarter-final spot.

"Of course, it feels good to get my first two goals but the main thing is we got the win and the three points," Sund said after the game. "We have played good so far. We have a couple of tough games still left before the playoff games start. We have to finish this group in a good way and get our focus on the end games."

For Italy, this was a fourth successive loss and the Azzurri are the only team yet to pick up a point in Latvia. The team’s difficulties on offence continued, restricted to just 11 shots as Harri Sateri recorded his third shut-out in World Championship play after previously blanking the USA in the 2017 quarter-final, then Norway in the group stage a year later.

Sund opened the scoring with a goal on the first power play of the game. The 25-year-old defenceman has every reason to feel at home in Arena Riga, where he had a spell with Dinamo Riga in the KHL earlier this season. Here, he settled in on the blue line and dictated the play. Sund demanded a feed from Petri Kontiola and launched a shot that ripped through a two-man screen in front of Justin Fazio.

Finland has not enjoyed much time on the power play in this tournament, but Sund believes his team can do some damage when it gets a man advantage.

"We have skilled players, we can move the puck well, and when we get the chance we score," he added. "Hopefully it will continue like that."
Finland vs Italy - 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship
Finland moved top of Group B with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Italy.
FIN ITA 27 MAY 2021
It wasn’t long before the lead was doubled. Just 90 seconds later, Niko Ojamaki sprinted forward on the rush, poking the puck beyond Peter Spornberger on the boards and sending a saucer pass onto the stick of Arttu Ruotsalainen.

With a two-goal lead, Finland was more than comfortable closing down the play, but Italy refused to roll over. At the start of the second period, the Italians had the puck in the net when Spornberger’s point shot was tipped past Sateri by Luca Frigo. However, Frigo’s stick was high and after a video review the 27-year-old was denied his second goal of this tournament. That was a tough blow for the Azzurri, a team struggling to generate offence throughout this tournament. 

"We lost 3-0 but it could have been 2-1 there," reflected Frigo, one of many Bolzano players on the Italian team. "But I'm proud of everyone, we all battled hard against a great, great team. We're going to continue to battle for the whole tournament."

Reprieved, Finland swiftly summoned up a second Sund-erbolt. This time he corralled a rolling puck on the top of the left-hand circle and saw his shot fly over Fazio’s shoulder and into the top corner. Sund also demonstrated he’s on top of his defensive game during another characteristically solid Finnish performance: a neat poke check to snuff out a short-handed breakaway from the Italians midway through the second period was just one highlight of his contribution on the other side of the puck.

The third period continued with Finland in complete control. Italy continued to battle bravely, but was unable to make much headway against a stronger opponent and the closing stages brought little drama despite a late power play for the Italians. The Finnish team presented captain Marko Anttila with the perfect gift for his 36th birthday before moving on to face Germany on Saturday. Italy’s next game is against Kazakhstan, and head coach Giorgio de Bettin expects his team to continue playing with great commitment.

"Finland plays in a way better league than our players," he said. "We struggled a lot in the first period and could have made more of our chances, as we did against Germany. Finland will go a long way in this World Championship but we are improving and our team played with lots of heart."
Finland vs Italy - 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship