Ville Koivunen scored twice and added an assist for Finland and Brad Lambert racked up a goal and two assists. Their linemate Samuel Helenius added his team-leading third goal and an assist. This line has emerged as an early difference-maker. With eight points on the afternoon, they have now amassed 13 points in total.
"They have a good relationship and they are good hockey players," said Finnish coach Antti Pennanen. "Brad Lambert is skillful and fast. Helenius wins the battles. Koivunen has good hockey sense. It's a really good combination."
For Pennanen's team, Kasper Simontaival and Kalle Vaisanen added singles, and Karri Aho and Joel Maatta chipped in two assists apiece.
The Finns outshot the Austrians 48-9 and were full value for their second straight victory as netminder Juha Jatkola enjoyed his World Junior debut.
"It feels good," said Aho. "You know, we played pretty well today. It's always good to win."
Suomi, who settled for bronze last time in Edmonton, are aiming to capture their first World Junior gold medal since Kaapo Kakko's late 3-2 winner against the Americans in the 2019 final in Vancouver.
"We had heavy legs after having to stay in the hotel the entire day yesterday," said Urbanek. "Such things can happen. We did the best we can to prepare and had a good workout."
There will be no relegated teams at the 2022 World Juniors, but it’ll be a challenge for the Austrians to secure any points in the preliminary round. In 2021, they were outscored 29-1 in just four games. Life doesn’t get any easier in Group A as they face Canada on Tuesday.
"It was a good experience last year," said Austrian starting goalie Sebastian Wraneschitz. "We are happy to be back with this experience and want to win games here."
About the loss to Finland, Austrian coach Marco Pewal said: "We knew we were the underdogs and would not have much puck possession. Our plan was that we had to defend well and keep the Finnish team on the outside. We adjusted and got better in the second period, but in the end you could see that we were tired and couldn’t keep up anymore. We need to get out of our zone in a more controlled way and force turnovers in the neutral zone."
On Finland’s first goal at 3:39, Lambert picked right up where he left off with his two-assist outing in the 3-1 win over Germany. The 18-year-old JYP attacker aggressively circled the Austrian net and found Koivunen in front. Koivunen beat the lunging Wraneschitz.
Limited to two goals and four assists so far in his second full Liiga season, Lambert – whose stock as a prospective 2022 NHL first-round pick had dropped recently – is just another example of how suiting up at the World Juniors can turbocharge a struggling youngster’s confidence.
The Finnish snipers kept the pressure coming. Simontaival – whose four goals on the 2021 bronze medal team were second only to captain Anton Lundell’s six – rang one off the iron from close range. Joakim Kemell did the same on a long blast.
The relentless approach paid off with a 2-0 gap at 18:02. A forechecking Koivunen stole the puck behind the net and sent a backhanded centering pass to Helenius, who fired home his team-leading third goal of these World Juniors. Shots favoured Finland 21-4 through 20 minutes.
"Overall, we had a lot of scoring chances and we managed the puck very well," said Pennanen.
In the second period, Simontaival capitalized on a rebound for his first goal of these World Juniors at 4:11. He took a nasty cross-check from Marco Kasper after scoring, and a scrum ensued. The Austrian captain was sent off along with Maatta with coincidental roughing minors.
When Helenius was penalized for holding, Austria exploited its 4-on-3 man advantage effectively. Luca Auer fed a short pass to Urbanek, who blew a one-timer over Jatkola’s glove to cut the deficit to 3-1 at 5:39.
"It was a nice feeling to score the goal, a nice power-play goal, and I got a good pass," said Urbanek.
Pennanen’s boys swiftly kiboshed Austria’s comeback hopes, making it 4-1 at 6:34 off an offensive zone faceoff. Aho floated a point shot that deflected off Vaisanen’s back and eluded Wraneschitz.
At 8:40 of the third period, Koivunen got Finland's fifth goal with a show of dexterity. Lambert sent the puck on net from the point, and Koivunen, falling while checked, managed to backhand the loose puck behind his back into the open side. There was a miniature echo of Alexander Ovechkin's famous "The Goal" versus the host Phoenix Coyotes on 16 January 2006.
"Brad shot and the puck hit my skate," said Koivunen. "I only tried to shoot and then I fell. I only try to score goals. I don't know!"
Niemela potted his first of the tournament on a centre point blast at 10:25 to put Finland up 6-1. Lambert got the seventh goal unassisted at 14:13 when Wraneschitz inadvertently handed the puck to the Finnish forward and surrendered a five-hole marker.
On Wednesday, the Finns can expect a bigger challenge against the Czechs. Coach Karel Mlejnek’s team grabbed a 3-1 first period lead against 2021 silver medalists Canada before falling 6-3 in their first game. Fans can expect another exciting battle.
"It's going to be a high-level game for sure, a demanding game," said Pennanen.