Finns thrash British for first win
by Lucas AYKROYD|12 MAY 2024
Finland bounced back from a Day One shootout loss to host Czechia with an 8-0 romp over Great Britain at the 2024 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Prague.
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Andrea Cardin
Oliver Kapanen led the way with a hat trick as Finland hammered Great Britain 8-0 in Sunday's early game. The Finns, who pulled away with five second-period goals, rebounded after opening with a 1-0 shootout loss to the Czechs. The underdog British remain pointless through two games.

"It feels good to get the first win," said Finnish defenceman Juuso Riikola. "I think we played really hard the whole 60 minutes today and didn't take our foot off the gas."

It was a confidence-boosting outburst for coach Jukka Jalonen's troops, who want to erase the memory of last year's seventh-place finish on home ice. Captain Mikael Granlund also stepped up with four assists. Jesse Puljujarvi had a goal and two assists.

Shots favoured Finland 47-14. Goalie Emil Larmi, who had a 1.99 GAA and 91.8 save percentage as Finland's 2024 starter, recorded his first IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship shutout.

After celebrating his 18th birthday on Saturday, Konsta Helenius added an assist in his World Championship debut on a line with two NHLers, Granlund (San Jose) and Valtteri Puustinen (Pittsburgh). The top 2024 NHL draft prospect finished with seven assists at the U18 Worlds in Finland earlier this month.

"I've been playing with him now for a couple of weeks in pre-tournament games," said defenceman Oliwer Kaski, who had two assists. "I feel like he gets better every every day. He plays with big confidence. You can't tell he's 18. He plays hard and makes plays. It's just fun to watch."

Starting off with back-to-back games against the nations that have split the last four gold medals (Canada 2021 & 2023, Finland 2019 & 2022) is a stiff challenge. But versus Suomi, the underdog British came in with a little extra hope after hanging tough when they fell 4-2 to Canada.

Asked to explain the difference between the opener and this lopsided defeat, British assistant captain Mark Richardson said: "I think a little bit of tiredness. It's not an excuse. I mean, Finland is such a great team, and soon as you give them a step, they're going to be all over you. I felt like we just didn't really stick to our system like we did yesterday."

Kapanen got the blue-and-white party started at 16:14, deftly tipping Kaski’s long shot past GB starter Ben Bowns. It was the 20-year-old Kapanen's first goal as a World Championship rookie. A two-time World Junior participant, he comes from Finnish hockey royalty, including NHLers like his cousin Kasperi Kapanen and uncle Sami Kapanen.

"He was close to the net to the whole game and he got a couple of tips and rebounds," Riikola said of Kapanen. "I think he played really well overall."

Just 1:15 into the second period, Jesse Puljuvari, standing in front, deflected in a Kaski howitzer to double the lead. Puljujarvi, the 2016 World Junior MVP who is vying to revitalize his NHL career with Pittsburgh, last played for the national team at the 2017 Worlds.

At 4:52, Jere Innala made it 3-0 on a power-play one-timer. Larmi looked sharp when he stoned Brett Perlini on a mid-period breakaway.

At 12:49, Riikola drifted a centre-point shot through traffic for his first Worlds goal at age 30. The former Pittsburgh rearguard, who now plays in Switzerland, has only suited up at this tournament once before (2018).

The rout was on. Kapanen scored the fifth Finnish goal on a rebound at 16:01, and Olli Maatta beat Bowns from the hash marks for a 6-0 lead at 18:45.

"They just stepped up during that second period and put us on the back foot," Richardson said.

In the third period, top blueliner Mikko Lehtonen scored, and Kapanen completed his hat trick. The Finnish victory was far from a surprise.

To put things in historical perspective, Great Britain’s only two Worlds wins over Finland occurred respectively prior to the 1952 Helsinki Summer Olympics (6-3 on 17 March, 1951) and the 1962 release of “Love Me Do” as the Beatles’ first single (7-5 on 5 March 1962).

The British haven't scored on Finland in the 21st century. When they returned to the Worlds in 2019 after a 25-year absence, they fell 5-0 to the Finns that year in Kosice, Slovakia, and 6-0 in Tampere in 2022. Finland's shutout streak against Great Britain currently sits at 187:07.
Finland vs Great Britain - 2024 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship