It was a balanced Finnish attack under coach Antti Pennanen.
Kasper Simontaival set the tone with two goals and an assist, and Joel Maatta also had a big game with his first two World Junior goals for Finland. Kasper Puutio and Aatu Raty notched a goal and two assists. Captain Roni Hirvonen delivered a goal and an assist. Oliver Kapanen and Kalle Vaisanen added singles. Topi Niemela had three assists, and Joakim Kemell and Roby Jarventie each chipped in a pair of assists.
"We tried to do the simple things and find the free space and get the puck to the goal," Kemell said.
Peter Repcik, Servac Petrovsky, and Libor Nemec replied for Slovakia, while captain Rayen Petrovicky had two assists. The Slovaks finished their round-robin with two points in four games.
In net, Finnish backup Juha Jatkola – a 19-year-old Kuopio native who plays for KalPa – made his World Junior debut. For Slovakia, Simon Latkoczy got his fourth consecutive start, but was replaced to start the third period by Tomas Bolo.
Finland outshot the Slovaks 48-16. Getting pucks to the net and capitalizing on Slovak errors enabled the blue-and-white squad to stay unbeaten at these World Juniors.
"It was a tough game for us," Petrovicky said. "We gave up a lot of power plays. You can’t do that. It killed us. They scored five goals on our PK. That’s terrible. We can’t take so many penalties."
"I’ve seen a couple of their games," said Jarventie. "They have a lot of great players. We need to play our best if we’re going to win, and that will mean being ready right away. We have to be careful with the puck. We can’t turn it over and allow too many odd-man rushes."
On balance, 2022 has been an historic year for Slovak hockey, from the Olympic bronze medal in Beijing to the NHL draft selections of forward Juraj Slafkovsky (#1, Montreal) and defenceman Simon Nemec (#2, New Jersey). However, so far in Edmonton, eking out a 3-2 shootout win over Latvia has been the highlight for coach Ivan Fenes’s crew.
Simontaival made it 1-0 Finland just 35 seconds in, thanks to some savvy captain-on-captain forechecking. Finland’s Hirvonen stole the puck down low from Petrovicky and backhanded it to Simontaival at Latkoczy’s right post. Simontaival surprised the netminder with a quick short-side shot.
It was the first goal of the tournament for the Tampere-born KalPa forward. Simontaival had the 4-3 shootout winner against the Czechs, but shootout goals do not count toward individual statistics.
Slovakia answered back at 7:42. Seconds after Jatkola sprawled to foil Samuel Honzek’s one-handed attempt in tight, Repcik blasted home the equalizer through traffic. Pumped up, the Slovaks celebrated with fervour, but their joy wouldn't last.
Finland’s power play – which went 3-for-6 in the first two games – got even hotter against Slovakia. When Adam Stripai was sent to the sin bin for slashing, Pennanen’s troops went to work with the man advantage.
Sticking with the process, the Finns moved the puck around patiently. With six seconds left in the power play, Maatta got loose in the right faceoff circle to zip a glove-side wrister home for a 2-1 edge at 14:02.
That goal brought smiles to the faces of local fans. The defensive-minded, Jokerit-schooled forward was drafted by the Edmonton Oilers in the seventh round (222nd overall) this year.
Slovakia’s prospects dimmed further near the end of the first period when assistant captain Adam Sykora took a five-minute major and game misconduct for kneeing on Kemell. Sykora, just 17, had two goals and an assist in six men’s World Championship games in Finland back in May.
Psychologically, the Finns maintained their edge. They took a two-goal lead on their long 5-on-4 at 0:24 of the second period. Off Niemela’s blast from the left faceoff circle, Hirvonen coolly sent the rebound into the gaping cage.
Jatkola was sharp to stop Repcik on a shorthanded breakaway moments later. The Slovaks got to the Finnish goalie at 7:04, though, as Nemec's persistence on the puck in the left faceoff circle yielded the 3-2 goal by Petrovsky.
The Finns just kept on coming. Maatta made it 4-2 at 11:42 on the power play. Stationed at the crease, he initially tipped Jarventie's pass off the post, but then banged the puck in.
"We had a lot of chances on the power play today," said Jarventie. "We created a lot of options and got a lot of shots. But I’m not surprised by our success. We practice it a lot and have been using that power play for quite a while now."
With 3:19 left in the second period, Raty put the game out of reach at 5-2. Kemell's cross-ice feed for the gifted New York Islanders prospect from Oulu bounced off the boards, but Raty showed good patience and waited to fire it over a lunging Latkoczy for his team-leading third goal.
At 18:08, Ruben Rafkin's stretch pass sent Kapanen in alone, and he whipped it past Latkoczy for a 6-2 lead.
Finland's fourth line continued the onslaught in the third period. After defenceman Matias Rajaniemi's stick exploded on a slap shot, the puck slid to Juuso Maenpaa in front, and he slid it back to Vaisanen, who had a wide-open net.
At 9:16, Nemec's first World Junior goal on a deft tip reduced the gap to 7-3. But Simontaival's redirect in front at 11:45 yielded Finland's fourth power play goal, and Puutio zinged the puck in off the post at 15:17 for the fifth PP marker.
Slovakia's latest loss to Finland wasn’t as quite ego-deflating as falling 11-1 to Canada – the most lopsided defeat against the powerful hosts that Slovakia has ever suffered at the World Juniors. Still, the Slovaks clearly have a lot of work to do heading into the quarter-finals – assuming Latvia does not upset Czechia to nab the last quarter-final berth in Group B.
With the loss, Slovakia’s all-time World Junior record against Finland drops to four wins, one tie, and 13 losses. Finland’s winning streak versus Slovakia extends to six games.