Finns stay perfect
by Derek O'Brien|16 MAY 2022
Team USA goalie Strauss Mann makes a pad save against Finland’s Valtteri Filppula #51 while Harri Pesonen #82 and Jaycob Megna #44 look on.
photo: Andre Ringuette / HHOF-IIHF Images

In a battle between two teams that had each won their first two games at the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, Finland defeated the USA 4-1, becoming the first team in Group B to win three games.

The arrival of Mikael Granlund in time for his team’s second game on Saturday against Latvia has made the Finnish power play deadly. They were 2-for-3 on that night in a 2-1 win, and it was 3-for-8 in this game, but the number of power plays is a bit misleading as several overlapping penalties created some very short opportunities – one as short as one second. The USA came up empty on five chances.

“There were a lot of emotions in the game, lots of penalties on both sides and we capitalized on our power plays pretty well,” said Sakari Manninen, who had a goal and two assists for Finland. On the rest of the top power-play unit, he said: “They’re unbelievable players and it’s easy to do something with them. When you’re coming to the ice and see a full rink it’s amazing.”

In addition to Manninen’s two-point effort, Granlund and Mikko Lehtonen each had two points for Finland. For the USA, Alex Galchenyuk broke Jussi Olkinuora’s shutout with 1:38 to go with a highlight-reel between-the-legs shot.

“We have great defencemen, we have a great system and tonight we showed we can be pretty solid offensively,” said Olkinuora. “It’s nice being a goalie for this team. It is a good start, I’m happy about it and it’s easy to build on that.”

The USA actually outshot Finland 29-25 in the game, although that stat is somewhat misleading as well, as the Finns did most of their shooting in the first half of the game and had significantly more dangerous chances.

“We just got caught up in the emotions of the game, took too many penalties,” said U.S. captain Seth Jones, who assisted on the late goal. “That’s kinda the story of it. Against a power play like this, it’s not easy. It was a 1-1 game without the power-play goals. In the end, we out-shot them. They’re a skilled team, very good, very systematic in what they do defensively. But the main story for us is staying out of the box. We spent a lot of minutes in the penalty box.”

Finland vs United States - 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship
In a battle between two teams that had each won their first two games at the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, Finland defeated the USA 4-1, becoming the first team in Group B to win three games.
FIN USA 16 MAY 2022

With both teams clearly anticipating a big game, everybody came out skating and hitting, to the delight of the partisan, sell-out crowd of 11,555. Strauss Mann was the busier of the two goalies in the early going and made some nice stops, particularly one from point-blank off Lehtonen with the left pad.

With 2:40 to play in the opening period, Granlund made good on Finland’s second power play of the evening. Just outside the blueline, Manninen made a cross-ice pass to Granlund, who skated in and unleashed his deadly wrist shot that beat a frozen Mann through the legs.

“It was great; there is some good chemistry on the PP,” said forward Teemu Hartikainen, who had one assist. “We have good confidence in it and now we’ve scored a few goals in the last couple of games. It’s great to play in. I’ve been playing in Ufa with Sakari for three years, all that time together, and of course Mikael is such a good player he can jump in any kind of PP. He can pass, he can score, really easily. We have simple roles but we know what we’re doing.”

The death blow to the Americans in this game came early in the second period when Austin Watson was assessed a major penalty and game misconduct for a high hit on Hartikainen, whom he caught with an elbow to the face. The Finns scored twice on the five-minute advantage and, for a team that plays as well defensively as they do, the three-goal lead was as good as money in the bank.

First it was Valtteri Filppula, who was stationed at the side of the net and redirected Jere Innala’s pass upstairs on Mann. Then 56 seconds later, Jere Sallinen provided the nice relay on a pass from Granlund, finding Manninen for the tap-in at the side of the net.

Lehtonen made it 4-0 while the teams were skating 4-on-4 just past the game’s midpoint, firing a seemingly effortless wrist shot from the point that sailed over the shoulder of a screened Mann.

“We spent too much time in the box and we can’t keep doing that,” said U.S. defenceman Nate Schmidt. “It was an emotional game and we have to be better throughout the rest of the tournament. We have to make sure to be ready, stay calm when the crowd is going. We’re coming together as a team and the last period we played a lot better and will build on that the next game.”

Down by four, the Americans were their most active in the third period, when they out-shot Finland 16-3. By this point in the game, the Finns had enough goals and mostly sat back in their own zone.

They were unable to preserve the shutout, however, as the Americans saved their best for last in the game. With less than two minutes to play, Luke Hughes carried the puck behind the Finnish net and then reversed to feed Galchenyuk, who beat Olkinuora to the short side by going between his legs.

That did little to dampen the atmosphere in Nokia Arena, however, as the fans merrily cheered down the final seconds.

Finland vs United States - 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship