International Ice Hockey Federation

2-0 win takes Suomi to semis

Finland moves on in tournament

Published 18.05.2017 19:47 GMT+2 | Author John Sanful
2-0 win takes Suomi to semis
COLOGNE, GERMANY - MAY 18: Finland's Mikko Rantanen #96 with a scoring chance against USA's Jimmy Howard #35 during quarterfinal round action at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Finland defeated the United States 2-0 to advance to the semi-finals of the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Cologne, Germany.

Strong defence and timely scoring by Mikko Rantanen and Joonas Kemppainen gave the Finns all they would need to keep their medal prospects alive in this tournament. Making his fourth start, Harri Sateri earned his first shutout.

"We didn't give up any goals so we feel we performed our game plan pretty well," Juuso Heitanen said. "We didn't give them any easy chances and we scored an important goal on the power play. Our defence was pretty good all night."

Finland was making its first appearance at LANXESS arena in this tournament.

Finland defeated Team USA 3-2 last year when they made an unbeaten tournament run that took them to the finals in Moscow. Eventually, Finland lost 2-0 to Canada in the gold medal game. On the other hand, the USA was seeking to secure a place in the semi-finals for the third consecutive World Championship.

From the start, both teams circled around the other waiting for mistakes to take advantage of and establish an early lead.

Finland’s two best chances came as Jani Lajunen tipped a Juuso Hietanen shot that hit the post. Later in the period, an errant pass in the offensive zone by Anders Lee was intercepted by Juhamatti Aaltonen, who skated in on a breakaway. As he did against Russia on Tuesday, Jimmy Howard held his ground, blocking a forehand shot with his left pad.

Team USA didn’t look as sharp at the start. Certainly, not as sharp as they’ve been in games in the Preliminary Round. Finland also closed off lanes and the American’s ability to establish a presence around Sateri’s net.

Nick Schmaltz was called for the lone penalty over the first twenty minutes. Finland showed some solid puck movements but generated few real or dangerous chances.

When Anders Lee was called for tripping at 26 seconds into the second period, Finland went on their second power play of the game. This time, they used the opportunity to take a 1-0 lead.

Moments after Jesse Puljujarvi sent a shot on goal that was gobbled up by Howard, Mikko Rantanen scored at 1:01. After receiving a pass from Sebastian Aho, Veli-Matti Savinainen’s shot was saved but Rantanen, who was alone in front, took the rebound and scored.

The United States took small steps to try and get back into the game. Brock Nelson had a shot that went off the shoulder of Sateri and out of play. When Antti Pihlstrom was sent off for tripping at 17:55 of the second, Team USA would have its first power play of the game. With seven power play goals, this should have been the United States best chance to bring the game even but it was Finland that almost scored.  

Aho took Valtteri Filppula with him for a two-on-one. Aho sent a pass to Filppula for a wrist shot that Howard made a big stop on Filppula.

By the third and the urgency to score more apparent, Team USA had some sustained possession time in the Finnish zone. But as they were moving the puck around the perimeter, they were unable to penetrate inside, near the crease to test Sateri.

USA's best players Kevin Hayes and Johnny Gaudreau were unable to recreate the magic they've enjoyed over their previous few games. 

"They did a good job defensively, clogging us up in the zone and made it tough on us all night long," Howard said. "Finland's tough defensively, they play a very disciplined game and don't give up much."

When defenceman Brady Skjei fell at the blueline, Finland had another two-on-one with only Charlie McAvoy back. Juhamatti Aaltonen forwarded a pass to Kemppainen who scored to make it 2-0.

The tournament comes to an abrupt end for Team USA who won six of their seven games in the Preliminary Round, including a group deciding encounter against Russia.

Finland, who was just able to make it into the quarter-finals now moves on in the tournament and play the winner of the Switzerland-Sweden game.

"We beat the Swiss here in OT and we beat Sweden in our last exhibition game with a third-period goal," Kemppainen said. "Whoever we get, we will need to play an even better game."