Finland blanks Latvia
by Lucas Aykroyd|29 DEC 2022
Finland celebrates after its opening goal by Jani Nyman (#22, centre) in a 3-0 win over Latvia at the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship in Moncton, New Brunswick.
photo: Chris Tanouye / IIHF
In a tightly played affair, Finland beat Latvia 3-0 in Thursday's early game at Moncton's Avenir Centre. Goalie Jani Lampinen shone with a 31-save shutout. The result puts both Finland and Switzerland into the 2023 World Junior quarter-finals.

"I think we played great," said Lampinen,  a 19-year-old who plays for Kiekko-Espoo. "They didn't get to come to the middle and score there. We just boxed them out to the sides and let them shoot from there. So that makes my game a little bit easier. And great backchecking, too."

With two straight wins, the Finns are contending for first place in Group B with seven points in the standings.

The Latvians, with just one point, need a win in their final round-robin game against Slovakia on Friday to keep their quarter-final aspirations alive.

"Tough loss again," said Latvian captain Gustavs Ozolins. "We try to battle hard every day, but I thought sometimes we were way too passive. We need to be more aggressive. communicate more, get the shots on net more, cover the goalie's eyes, and just get one. Then anything can happen."

Jani Nyman led offensively with a goal and an assist for Finland. Niko Huuhtanen and Konsta Kapanen also scored. Otto Salin recorded a pair of assists.

"Super happy," said Huuhtanen. "Big win, big three points. We needed that. And Saturday we have a big game against the USA."

Latvian netminder Patriks Berzins, playing his third consecutive game, had 26 stops.

"It's going to be a huge game on New Year's Eve," said Finnish head coach Tomi Lamsa. "It's a big, big game for us if we think about the standings and the next round. We played already once against the USA and we know what kind of team they have and what kind of hockey they play. But it's gonna be great game for sure."

Lamsa dressed six defencemen instead of seven with Kalle Ervasti out of the lineup. Ville Ruotsalainen slotted into Ervasti’s spot alongside Jimi Suomi.
Latvia vs Finland - 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship
LAT FIN 29 DEC 2022
Finland came out looking to build on the momentum it created with a 5-2 dispatching of Slovakia on Tuesday. The Latvians sought a better fate after letting a 2-1 lead on Switzerland slip away in the dying moments of regulation time and settling for a single point in a 3-2 overtime defeat that same day.

But it just wasn't meant to be for the small Baltic nation, despite outshooting Finland 31-29. Latvia has now been limited to four goals in three games in Moncton. The Latvians couldn't convert on the power play here, although Finland took five minors to Latvia's three.

Suomi had the better of the early play. Nyman, a 2022 second-round pick of the Seattle Kraken, ignited the Finnish attack at 4:43 with his second goal of these World Juniors. His high shot from the edge of the left faceoff circle that eluded the kneeling Berzins through traffic.

Latvia pushed back as the period wore on, building a 10-5 edge in shots, but couldn't capitalize with its first power play. A video review with 1:10 left in the opening stanza confirmed the Latvians were unable to jam the puck past Lampinen's skate.

Huuhtanen praised his netminder:  "It's unreal. We need a good goalie if we want to win the games, and he helped us win today."

In the second period, Finland weathered some penalty woes before going up 2-0 at 9:34. Huuhtanen worked a neat give-and-go in traffic in the Latvian zone with Nyman and knifed a backhander past Berzins' blocker from the slot.

"It started in the D-zone with a good pass from Salin," Huuhtanen said. "Then it was a little bit of ping-pong puck and I shot it in the net."

The Finns steadily took control of the game with good puck management and a consistent effort. And Latvian frustration only mounted in the third period.

In one sequence, Lampinen did the full splits to prevent Rainers Darzins from pitchforking a loose puck into the net. With under three minutes to play, the Latvians pulled Berzins for the extra skater, but it was to no avil. Konsta Kapanen got free to pot the empty-netter with 2:15 remaining and seal the deal.

Forward Kristians Samitis took the place of defender Silvers Lazarenoks in the Latvian lineup. Lazarenoks got a lower-body injury against Switzerland that has ruled him out of World Junior play.

Looking ahead to facing Slovakia, Ozolins struck an optimistic note: "We're right there with the top teams. We can battle every team. We can take points away from every team. Teamwork makes the dream work."

This was Finland’s sixth all-time victory over Latvia to maintain a perfect record. In the previous five encounters dating back to 30 December, 2008, the Finns outscored Latvia 22-5.
Latvia vs Finland - 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship