Roni Hirvonen and his Finnish teammates fired 43 shots on goal in a 4-1 Group A win over Switzerland on Sunday at the 2021 World Juniors

By Lucas Aykroyd –

The Finns have “Flying With Finnair” on their helmets and jerseys. They took flight with a big territorial advantage in the second and third periods on Sunday in a 4-1 win over Switzerland. 

Captain Anton Lundell and Kasper Simontaival both stepped up with a goal and an assist for Finland, which stayed perfect. Juuso Parssinen and Aku Raty also scored. Brad Lambert and Topi Niemela added a pair of assists apiece. Finland converted three times on the power play.

“I think it’s very important that we scored two goals in the last period with the power play.” said Simontaival. “It was important for us to trust the process and get some goals.”

Attilio Biasca had the lone goal for Switzerland.

“I thought we had a good game,” said Biasca. “We played solid defence, but we had way too many penalties. But it was a good game. We have to play more offence.”

Swiss goalie Thibault Fatton performed valiantly in his second start. Roope Taponen made his World Junior debut in net for Finland, which outshot Switzerland 43-14.

Winless Switzerland, which was blanked 1-0 by Slovakia in its opener, faces a tough battle for a quarter-final berth. The next Swiss game is against Canada on Tuesday.

“They’re a good team,” said Swiss blueliner Noah Meier. “They have lots of good players. We have to do the easy plays, simple plays. Play as hard as possible and try to get some points in this game against Canada.”

The Finns, who finished fourth last year, are vying for their sixth gold medal of all time (1987, 1998, 2014, 2016, 2019). The Swiss, who were fifth in 2020, have one bronze medal to their credit (1998).

Coach Marco Bayer’s squad brought a solid battle level to keep this game close.

In a hard-fought first period, the Swiss got their first goal of the tournament when Biasca sniped a power-play goal from the left faceoff circle at 3:44. The 17-year-old Zug forward is looking forward to making his debut with the Halifax Mooseheads after the QMJHL season resumes.

“It felt great to shoot the puck in,” said Biasca. “It was a great pass.”

Lundell struck back 36 seconds later with his second goal in as many games. With the Finns forechecking smartly, the 2019 World Junior champion worked a give-and-go with Simontaival, hustling to the net to convert a cross-crease pass.

“I would say that we have good chemistry,” said Simontaival. “We can find each other on the ice and play pucks to the net and redirect them.”

After Finland killed off Switzerland’s second power play, Lundell set up top Finnish D-man Ville Heinola in the final minute of the first period for a great chance in the high slot. Fatton picked it off with his glove.

In the second period, the Finns picked up their tempo and carried the play. Parssinen made it 2-1 with the man advantage at 4:53. The 19-year-old son of two-time Worlds silver medalist Timo Parssinen maneuvered into the Swiss zone with heads-up stickhandling and knifed a high backhander past Fatton.

Second-period shots favored Finland 16-6, and that told the tale. Coach Antti Pennanen’s players weren’t doing anything fancy, just wearing down their foes. Lundell rang one off the iron midway through the period, and Fatton denied Santeri Hatakka on the rush. The Swiss barely generated any pressure except during Finland’s three straight second-period minors.

Early in the third period, Switzerland’s Cedric Fiedler went off for holding Parssinen, but the most dangerous moment on that power play was when Heinola, coming out from behind the Finnish net, bobbled the puck and almost scored an own goal.

With 9:19 remaining, Aku Raty gave the Finns a two-goal cushion with the man advantage, tipping in Lambert’s deft feed from the left faceoff circle.

On another power play, Simontaival finished off a tic-tac-toe passing play from Lundell and Roni Hirvonen at 16:49 to round out the scoring at 4-1.

“We saw each other on the ice, and also, Roni Hirvonen has been playing well with us,” Simontaival said.

The gap between these two nations has narrowed over the last 10 years. Including this game, the Swiss have points in four of their last seven World Junior outings against Finland, including one regulation win (31 December 2019) and two shootout wins (4 January 2011, 31 December 2013).

Next up for Finland is Slovakia on Wednesday.