International Ice Hockey Federation

Finns hold off Slovaks, 5-4

Finns hold off Slovaks, 5-4

Packed house sees thrilling game

Published 13.04.2017 23:02 GMT+2 | Author Andrew Podnieks
Finns hold off Slovaks, 5-4
POPRAD, SLOVAKIA - APRIL 13: Finland's Joni Ikonen #13 avoids a check from Slovakia's Adam Ziak #21 during preliminary round action at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. (Photo by Andrea Cardin/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Captain Aarne Talvitie's second goal of the game at 12:17 of the third broke a 4-4 tie and gave Finland a huge win to open the U18 championship in Poprad.

The goal came off the rush and was set up by a beautiful pass on the left side from Miro Heiskanen.

Adam Ziak thought he tied the game for Slovakia with 3:30 remaining, but the referees ruled goalie interference.

The game was played before a near capacity crowd of 3,935 that was loud and bositerous from start to finish, and their home team gave plenty of reason to cheer.

"It was an amazing feeling to play in front of so many loud fans," Heiskanen said. "It helps us play better as well, but we can play better, for sure."

Finland jumped out to an impressive 3-0 lead that looked only like it would increase as the night went on. 

The Slovaks had other ideas.

"We had a really good second period, scored four goals, so we have to be happy with that," Slovakia's captain Martin Fehervary said. "The atmosphere here was really great, so hopefully the fans will be loud like this for every game."

The Finns opened the scoring at 9:55 of the first when goalie Juraj Sklenar cleared the puck away from his crease, only to see it land on the stick of Kristian Vesalainen, who wired a quick shot past the surprised goalie.

In the second the visitors scored at 3:46 to make it 2-0 when captain Aarne Talvitie snapped a hards shot over Sklenar's glove. Five and a half minutes later, they scored again. This time Vesalainen drilled a shot to the far side on the power play, giving the team a seemingly insurmountable lead.

Just 19 seconds later, though, the Slovaks struck back. Goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, who liked to handle the puck but who made several poor clearings in the first, paid the price for another weak clearing around the boards. The puck was expertly picked off by Patrik Hrehorcak, and his shot to the top corner of the stick side made it a 3-1 game.

The Slovaks made it 3-2 when Hrehorcak scored again, on a virtually identical play as his first goal. Although this goal came on the power play, he had the puck at the right faceoff dot and wired a high shot to the far side, over Luukkonen's shoulder.

But the hosts weren't done yet. Martin Kupec took a harmless point shot, but the puck dribbled under Luukkonen and over the goal line at 15:53. A minute later, Adam Stacho took another weak point shot that Luukkonen flubbed, and all of a sudden that 3-0 Finnish lead was now a 4-3 deficit.

"We have to be a lot better when we have the lead," Heiskanen lamented. "We have to make simple plays and get the puck out of our end and into their end."

Sklenar made the save of the game late in the period when he robbed Jesse Ylonen with his glove, but later on the same shift Ylonen poked home a loose puck in behind Sklenar to make it a 4-4 game after 40 wildly entertaining minutes.


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