Finland and Russia never fail to unimpress hockey fans around the world, and even though the game may have finished in a 6-3 victory for the Finns, it was a much closer battle than the score may indicate.
Yesterday, during a 3-1 loss to Canada Red, it was clear that the Finns struggled offensively. In fact, their only goal came in the third period, and with Russia next, it surely wasn’t going to be an easy one. However, that wouldn’t stop them from taking the 2-0 lead after 20 minutes of play. 12 minutes into the opening frame, a quick shot from Eeli Tolvanen went off the post and in to give the Finns the surprising 1-0 lead early in the game.
The first period for the defending champions from Russia wouldn’t get much better. Just two minutes after opening the scoring, the Finns would take the 2-0 advantage after some great hand-eye coordination from Jesse Koskenkorva saw the forward bat down the rebound to double the Finnish lead.
The second period was full of high pace action. First, the Russians finally found a way to put the puck in the net after a hard skating effort by Yaroslav Alekseev saw the Russian flip the puck over Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen and in to bring his team within a goal.
Finland would get another one to regain their two-goal advantage. With six minutes off the clock in the second, a quick shot by Jesse Koskenkorva ended the night for Russian goaltender Arseni Akhmetov much earlier than expected. The back and forth match wasn’t near done producing goals, and a rocket from the point by Vladislav Kazamanov just over a minute later meant that the Russians would once again bring themselves within a goal.
In classic fashion, that wouldn’t last for long. In fact, one of the very first shots Maxim Zhukov would face would find its way behind the Russian backup goaltender, who Eeli Tolvanen exploited to score the fourth goal in just five minutes of play.
And, of course, that wouldn’t last for long either. With seven minutes to go in the game, Russian captain Klim Kostin ripped a wrist shot from the top of the circle and quickly enough, it was a one-goal game once again heading into the second intermission.
The Finns really needed an early goal to help seal the deal for the victory. Bernard Isiguzo did his best to help his team after sneaking a fast shot under the arm of Zhukov, giving his team the two-goal lead after six minutes of play in regulation. The Russians failed to create much of anything after that, and with 21 seconds left, Kristian Vesalainen would score an empty netter to finish off the 6-3 victory for the Finns, giving them their first victory of the tournament.
With the win, the Finns will look to go for first place in Group B with a 4:30 pm EST meeting with their arch rivals from Sweden. The Russians, however, will look to get their tournament back on track with a late 9 pm match against Canada Red, who ended up taking down Finland 3-1 on Sunday.
Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.