Finland FIN
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27 APR 2021
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Russia RUS
Preliminary Round
16:00Comerica Center
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KOHLMUELLER Lukas
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Finns rally past Russia in shootout
By Lucas Aykroyd | 27 APR 2021
Finnish captain Samu Salminen celebrates after his second-period goal in a 4-3 Group B shootout victory over Russia at the 2021 U18 Worlds in Texas.
photo: Chris Tanouye / HHOF-IIHF Images
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Persistence paid off for Finland with a 4-3 win over Russia on Tuesday, as Verner Miettinen notched the shootout winner. The Finns, playing their first game in Group B, rallied from a 3-1 second-period deficit in an exciting affair, scoring twice with under three minutes left in regulation.

In the shootout, Ville Koivunen also scored on heroic Russian goalie Sergei Ivanov, while the Russians couldn't get any pucks past netminder Aku Koskenvuo.

Finnish defenceman Tomi Leppanen summed up his team's mindset: "Their goalie played well, but he can't stop all the shots, and if we shoot enough, we're going to score enough goals to win the game."

For Finland, Koivunen stepped up with a goal and an assist, while Brad Lambert, who played at the World Juniors in Edmonton, chipped in two assists.

Bizarrely, Fyodor Svechkov, who scored twice for Russia in regulation, took two penalties for stick infractions in overtime. But despite outshooting Russia 7-0 in the extra session, the Finns couldn't convert, going 0-for-6 with the man advantage in the game. Final shots favoured Finland 56-28.

Svechkov's linemate Ivan Miroshnichenko said: "Speaking of his penalties during the overtime, I believe it's a game of emotions and nobody wanted it to go like that. We're going to improve our game as a line and as a team as well."

The Russians, questing for their first U18 Worlds gold since 2007, pulled off a frantic 7-6 overtime victory against the host Americans to open the tournament. They became the first team in U18 Worlds to rally from a 5-1 deficit and win. But this time they were the victims.

Despite the blown lead, Russian head coach Albert Leshyov praised his troops: "We had our second game in less than 24 hours and I guess we gave too many emotions yesterday. There was a little bit of a lack of emotions tonight, but anyways, our guys did a great job. They were battling hard and it was a good game for them."

Both teams’ goalies were making their U18 Worlds debut. Russia’s Sergei Ivanov dazzled here with 52 stops after Valeri Brinkman replaced Kirill Gerasimyuk against the Americans. Finland’s Aku Koskenvuo had 25 saves.

Finland showed genuine character after forward Oliver Kapanen fell into the boards and taken off on a stretcher late in the third period.

Finnish coach Petri Karjalainen provided a reassuring update: "‚ÄčOur doctor said that everything is okay. Like there's a sore neck and headache, but no bigger risk and everything moves on. It was also a big relief for our players. Of course, when something like this happens, we were able to get our focus back to the game. But then on the other hand, it's one of our players, one of our friends."

Midway through the first period, the Russians exploited a Finnish defensive breakdown to open the scoring.  Svechkov and Miroshnichenko wound up with a 2-on-0, and Svechkov tapped in his partner’s nice feed in tight past Koskenvuo.

Just 1:25 into the second period, Finnish captain Samu Salminen tipped in the equalizer off Viljami Juusola’s left point shot. The Jokerit-trained Salminen has committed to taking his skills to the University of Denver for 2022-23, and that goal was a masterclass in hand-eye coordination and net-front body position.

At 4:07, Russian captain Nikita Chibrikov, the overtime hero against the U.S., gobbled up an unforced Finnish error in the slot and made it 2-1.

Near the halfway mark, Koskenvuo had to come across smartly to prevent Yurov from giving Russia a two-goal gap. The Finns started throwing their weight around in a bid to turn the tide, including a huge defensive zone hit by assistant captain Topias Vilen on Michkov, who had two goals against the Americans.

Elite Russian skill furnished the 3-1 goal at 17:53. On the rush, Yurov brilliantly dragged the puck through his legs in the right faceoff circle before dropping it back to Svechkov. The Togliatti-trained 18-year-old used Oliver Kapanen as a decoy and zipped a shot past Koskenvuo.

In the final stanza, the Russians initially showed good defensive composure to keep the Finns on the perimeter. With Alexander Figurin off for tripping, Finland failed to cash in with the man advantage near the midpoint of the period. Ivanov dove across to make a huge save when Koivunen fed Miko Matikka at the side of the net.

With under five minutes remaining, Kapanen unfortunately stumbled and fell headfirst into the boards in the offensive zone. A hush fell over the arena. Doctors and trainers were summoned and the KalPa-trained 17-year-old forward was taken off on a stretcher.

With 2:35 left, Finland drew within one goal. Aleksi Heimosalmi danced laterally inside the blue line in Quinn Hughes-like fashion before getting the puck on net, and Koivunen converted the rebound. And with 1:26 remaining and Koskenvuo pulled for the extra attacker, Brad Lambert jumped in before skimming a brilliant cross-ice feed to Samu Tuomaala, who made it 3-3 with a great one-timer.

Of Ivanov and the barrage he faced in goal, Yurov said: "It was the first game for him, and we were trying really hard to help him. We were working in front of the net, but obviously we did not do that great of a job."

The Finns have emerged as a U18 power in recent years, topping the podium in both 2016 and 2018. Their program is looking for a bounceback after matching their all-time worst finish in 2019 with seventh place.

Finland returns to play against the Czech Republic on Wednesday, while Russia has a day off before battling Germany on Thursday.

Finland vs Russia - 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship