Finland took down yet another European team, their second in two days, as two goals from Joonas Kemppainen pushed the Finns to a 5-0 win in their third game of the tournament.
The Finnish powerplay, which had been 0-for-8 in two games before Monday, dominated over the undisciplined Norwegian penalty kill, going 3-for-3 on the PP in the first 40 minutes. The powerplay was led by defenseman Esa Lindell, who had a goal and two assists on the powerplay in the game. The lack of Norwegian discipline was led by defenseman Alexander Bonsaksen, who took two different minors during the game, both resulting in Finnish goals.
Like any hockey fan knows, you can’t score if you don’t have the puck (well, at least most of the time). This could not have been more true for the Norwegians, who were outshot 30 to 20 throughout the game, mostly due to their nearly-constant penalty killing. At one point in the second period, they were on the PK for more than five straight minutes, due to penalties by Bonsaksen and teammates Patrick Thoresen, Niklas Roest, and Morten Ask.
It was not only a lack of discipline that led to Finnish dominance, though. Much as they did against their previous opponent, Denmark, Finland clogged the neutral zone heavily, preventing quality zone entries for Norway. This technique worked especially well against Norway’s top line of Thoresen, Ask, and Mathias Olimb, who were hemmed in the Norwegian zone more often than they would have liked.
Another important aspect of this Finnish defense is that they don’t simply cede possession when the opposition enters the zone. Within their own zone, Finnish forwards like Leo Komarov utilize effective checking in the corners to force turnovers, which are then converted into breakout odd-man rushes via smart passes by Finland’s defense.
This great mix of neutral zone clogging and defensive puck pressure handed Finland and goaltender Pekka Rinne their second shutout of the tournament, as Rinne’s shutout streak has now stretched to 122 minutes and 38 seconds.
With this win, Finland’s record moves to 2-0-0-1, giving them 6 points and putting them 3rd in Group B behind the United States and Russia, while Norway goes to an unsurprising 0-0-0-3. Thankfully for the Norwegians, their remaining games are against easier competition than Russia, the US, or Finland; they take on Slovakia on May 6th, followed by Slovenia on the 8th. Finland now has a two-day break before playing Slovenia on the 7th and Slovakia on the 9th.
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