Finns down Norway, face Slovaks in QF
by Lucas Aykroyd|25 APR 2023
Jesse Kiiskinen (#23) had two first-period goals in Finland's 10-2 romp over Norway at the 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship in Basel, Switzerland.
photo: Matt Zambonin / IIHF
Finland thumped Norway 10-2 in Tuesday’s last group-stage game at Basel’s St. Jakob Arena. The Finns rank second in Group B and will face Slovakia in Thursday’s quarter-finals.

Captain Kasper Halttunen stepped up with two goals and two assists, and Jesse Kiiskinen had two goals and an assist. Top Finnish defenceman Aron Kiviharju picked up four helpers. The TPS Turku prodigy is tied with the U.S.'s Cole Hutson for the scoring lead among tournament blueliners (0+7=7).

"I feel great," said Kiviharju. "We played good today and scored a lot of goals. Many guys got on the scoreboard. And it's important, looking toward the future, that they can also score in the quarter-finals."
The Finns aspire to win their fifth U18 Worlds gold medal and first since 2018. They took the bronze medal last year with a 4-1 win over Czechia.

After their heartbreaking 1-0 loss to Latvia on Monday, the Norwegians were already destined to play in the relegation round. The winless Scandinavians will face Germany in a best-of-three series starting on Thursday.

"We just have to play our game, stick to the plan, and not let in as many goals as we have in this round," said Norway's Ole Indergaard.

Coach Lauri Merikivi’s boys clearly had some tightening up to do after getting beaten 8-4 by the high-octane Americans in their previous outing. As expected, this was a much more consistent effort, albeit versus a lower-tier opponent. They outshot Norway 38-15.

"I like that we scored 10 goals," said Merikivi. "And how we played in the second period was really good. That's the way we want to play."

Finland got off to a quick start. Just 1:09 in, Kiiskinen got Finland on the board, going to the net to convert Jesse Nurmi’s centering pass from the left corner past Norwegian goalie Marius Bjornsgaard.

Norway had a nice chance near the five-minute mark on the rush, but Finnish goalie Noa Vali, making his tournament debut, extended his right pad to rob defenceman Philip Hagen. A minute later, Norwegian assistant captain Casper Haugen hit the cross bar. That was as close as the underdogs would get to equalizing.

Finland went up 2-0 on Tom Leppa’s shorthanded breakaway goal at 6:29. Veeti Vaisanen powered a one-timer from the blue line to make it 3-0 at 12:30, and Kiiskinen added his second goal just 2:15 later.

The Norwegians got a little morale boost and roared with glee when Indergaard poked in a power play goal at 15:54.

"I just crept down in the crease and I thought the goalie had the puck,"Indergaard said. "But then the referee was standing behind the net and pointing at the puck!"

In the second period, Finland controlled the play with its skating game as Norway lagged. The Finns truly put the game out of reach with a three-goal explosion.

At 10:30, Niilopekka Muhonen finished off a terrific passing play on the rush for his first goal of these U18 Worlds. Less than a minute later, Emil Jarventie grabbed a Norwegian turnover in the slot and pivoted to zap the 6-1 marker past Bjornsgaard. And Halttunen ripped a short-side wrister home at 12:49.

"All the respect to Norway, but I think we were way better, and it's hard sometimes when the opponent is not as good to keep your own level as high as you can," Halttunen said.

Things got chippier as the middle frame wound down. With 13 seconds left, Rasmus Kumpulainen put Suomi up 8-1 on a power play rebound with Amandus Klungtveit off for elbowing.

In the third period, Norway scored a weird shorthanded goal at 4:35. Captain Felix Granath handcuffed Vali with a shot that hit the goalie, went up in the air, and trickled in off his back.

Halttunen got his team-leading fifth goal on the power play with 4:42 left. Helenius added the 10th goal with under two minutes to play.

"Our motivation is as high as it can be," Halttunen said. "We want to win the gold medal and that's it."

Norway has lost six straight games to Finland all-time at the U18 Worlds and has been outscored 46-7.
Finland vs Norway - 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship