Finns top Latvia
by Andrew Podnieks|24 APR 2022
photo: Matt Zambonin / HHOF-IIHF Images
Finland scored twice early in the second period to break a 1-1 tie and skated to a patient and disciplined 4-1 win over Latvia on the second day of the U18 World Championship in Kaufbeuren. The Finns entered the game with a perfect 5-0 record against Latvia all time at the U18s, and today’s W makes it six in a row. 

The win puts Finland at the top of Group B with a 2-0 record and six points, while Latvia is in second with three points after their dramatic win over Sweden yesterday.

"We played better defensively today," said winning coach Mika Marttila. "I think Latvia had only six scoring chances, so I'm happy with that number, especially how we played in the second and third periods. We tried to approach the game today as we did yesterday, knowing we have a day off to rest tomorrow.  We're ready for a great game on Tuesday against Sweden, our neighbours."

"We were slower than Finland, for sure," admitted Latvia's coach Olegs Sorokins, a veteran of seven World Championships and one Olympics (2002) for his country. "They beat us with their speed. And it didn't help that we had a little less time between games than they did, so it was tough on the guys, who didn't have the same energy. I thought we started the second period pretty well. You could see the players believed in themselves, but it was pretty much their first two shots that went in and cost us the game. Overall, I was happy that the guys didn't give up and played hard right til the end. As hard as it was to lose the game, we have to be proud of the guys and how they played."
Finland vs Latvia - 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship
Finland scored twice early in the second period to break a 1-1 tie and skated to a patient and disciplined 4-1 win over Latvia.
25 APR 2022
Although Suomi held the edge in play during the first period, each team scored once. The Finns had the first great chance midway through the period when defender Niko Minkkinen fed captain Jere Lassila with a stretch pass that turned into a breakaway. Lassila made a nice move, but goalie Deivs Rolovs got his left pad out to make a terrific save.

The Finns opened the scoring thanks to a couple of nice plays off the rush. Kasper Halttunen drove down the right side, but he lost the puck in the corner. Teammate Jani Nyman was right there and fed Halttunen on his way to the front of the net, where he snapped the puck in past an unsuspecting Rolovs at 11:56. 

In control, the Finns later had the game’s first power play, and that’s when the trouble started. Moving up ice, Tuomas Uronen gave the puck away outside his blue line, and Dans Locmelis stole the puck. He was hooked going in on goal, drawing a penalty shot at 18:21, and he made no mistake. Locmelis moved down the right side slowly, then spread his skates and darted back against his momentum, tucking the puck into the open cage after Topias Leinonen went for the fake. It was Latvia's only decent socring chance of the period, but they made it count.

Shots favoured Finland, 12-5, but the scoreboard was even after 20 minutes. That didn’t last long. The Finns scored two early goals in the second thanks to some suspect goaling from Rolovs. Lassila drove down the left wing and around the goal, and he whipped the puck in front from behind the icing line. Rolovs was slow to get over, and the puck went in off his pad at 3:42. 

Less than two minutes later, defender Elmeri Laakso made it 3-1. He collected a loose puck in the centre ice area and moved into the slot, but finding himself covered he backhanded a shot on goal that slipped through Rolovs' equipment. Sorokins made a goalie change, pulling the starter in favour of Linards Feldbergs.

The Latvians had a chance to work into the Finnish lead with an early power play in the third, but the Finns played flawless defence and soon after added to their tally. Feldbergs couldn't control an easy point shot from Minkkinen, and Halttunen swept the rebound into the goal to make it 4-1 at 4:35.

"We're a hard working team, and we played great defence even in their end, so they weren't able to attack the way they'd have liked," said Halttunen. "When the game was 1-1, we really tried to focus on our own game."

"We definitely felt more confident today after winning yesterday," offered Locmelis. "We now feel like we can win every game. When we were in the dressing room after the first period and it was 1-1, there was no energy, so we tried to get some positive energy in the second but it wasn't enough."

All teams have a day off tomorrow, but on Tuesday the Latvians will play Switzerland in the early game followed by a classic Finland-Sweden tilt.
Finland vs Latvia - 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship