Finns get past Danes to buoy QF hopes
by Lucas AYKROYD|20 MAY 2024
Finland finally broke through against Danish second-string goalie Mathias Seldrup in the third period in a surprisingly difficult 3-1 victory at the 2024 Worlds.
Hannes Bjorninen, Rasmus Rissanen, and Pekka Jormakka scored third-period goals to propel Finland to a surprisingly tight 3-1 win over Denmark.  Still, the Finns aren't out of the woods yet in the battle for the last Group A quarter-final berth.

Finland now has 10 points to Austria's seven. On Tuesday, the last day of the group stage, if Austria defeats Great Britain in regulation time, the Finns will need at least one point against Switzerland to advance to the quarter-finals. (The Austrians have the head-to-head advantage over Finland due to their wild 3-2 comeback win.)

Looking ahead to confronting Switzerland, Finnish captain Mikael Granlund said: "They're a great team. They have world-class players there. So it's gonna be a really big challenge for us. You just love to play those games, real hockey games. We're all excited about that."

Alexander True scored a late goal for Denmark, which played its last game of these Worlds.

"I thought we played a good game today," said Danish forward Frederik Storm. "Late in the game, we were still close. We had a chance to win the game. Unfortunately, they scored some goals and at least one was our mistake. They have a lot of quality. Unfortunately, we didn't have quite enough today."

Although Denmark finishes second-last in the group, it's better than last. The 2025 Worlds will be co-hosted by Denmark (Herning) and Sweden (Stockholm), meaning coach Mikael Gath's team couldn't be relegated this year in any case.

For much of this game, the Finns worked hard but seemed tentative, while the Danes emptied the tank. The result, coming this late in the preliminary round, underscores concerns about Finland's offensive capabilities in its final run under legendary coach Jukka Jalonen.

"I think we were a little timid at the beginning," Finland's Olli Maatta said. "Obviously, it's a big game for us. But as the game went on, I think we relaxed a little bit and started playing our game a little better. Our execution got better."

With slim odds of advancing to a quarter-final, the Danes dressed 19 skaters and scratched key veterans.

Danish captain Jesper Jensen Abo missed his third straight game, while fellow veteran blueliner Oliver Lauridsen also sat out. Forward Joachim Blichfeld, tied for second in team scoring pre-Finland (five points), didn't play either. Top goalie Frederik Dichow did not dress as Mathias Seldrup got his first Worlds start after playing the third period of the 8-0 loss to Switzerland and allowing three goals.

Finnish goalie Emil Larmi got the win as his team outshot Denmark 35-22.

In a scoreless first period, Storm gave Denmark the game’s first good chance, gobbling up a Finnish defensive-zone giveaway and trying a backhand deke that Larmi foiled with a flung-back glove. Seldrup too looked dialed-in when he said no to Jesse Puljujarvi’s solo jaunt near the midway mark of the first. Notably, the Finns also squandered a 5-on-3 advantage lasting 41 seconds.

The Finns almost got burned when Christian Wejse appeared to have scored on a power-play one-timer at 8:36 of the second period. However, the goal was waved off since acting Danish captain Patrick Russell was in the crease and interfered with Larmi.

Granlund had a nice chance in close during a late-period man advantage but fired the puck over the cross bar. Suomi thought it finally had the lead in the last minute of the middle frame when Granlund stickhandled to the net and Iiro Pakarinen banged in the rebound. But the officials ruled that Granlund had interfered with Seldrup, and again there was no goal.

Finally, Bjorninen broke the scoreless tie at 3:26 of the third. Jesper Mattila's point shot ricocheted off the back boards to Bjorninen at the open side of the net, and the SHL veteran banged it in.

After the go-ahead goal, Rissanen made it 2-0 just 1:37 later. The Orebro HK rearguard sealed off the wall when Storm tried to clear the puck forward, and then jumped into the faceoff circle to beat Seldrup with a quick wrister.

Uncowed, the Danes kept pressing. An Oscar Moelgaard shot deflected in off True at 18:16 with Seldrup pulled for the extra attacker. However, at 19:07, Jormakka sealed the deal with an empty-netter.

Storm assessed Denmark's tournament overall: "We started out well, but then there were too many ups and downs. Not enough scoring in some of the games, and the defence was at certain points not good enough."

But, he added, his team is already looking forward to 2025: "The atmosphere last time we had the World Championship in Herning was unbelievable. So I look forward to seeing that atmosphere again with a big arena full of Danish jerseys."