By Andrew Podnieks – IIHF.com
Finland wore down and dominated the underdog Slovaks this afternoon to claim a 6-0 win and keep pace with Canada atop the Group A standings with identical 3-0-0 records.
Shots favoured the Finns by a huge and telling margin, 50-12, and the game was even this close only because of the heroic play of Samuel Hlavaj in goal. Kari Piiroinen got the easy shutout for Finland. It also makred the 11th game of the 15 played so far in which the losing team has scored either one or no goals.
Captain Anton Lundell led the attack with a goal and two assists while Sami Helenius had two goals.
The loss keeps the Slovaks in third spot with four points, but they have already qualified for the quarter-finals and likely had one eye on the new year as they played their final game of the preliminary round.
“I’m not sure what we can take from this game,” offered a downcast Simon Jellus. “We made so many mistakes and took so many penalties. The power play didn’t work, and we didn’t have the effort. We have two days to recover and practise and get ready for the quarter-finals.”
The Finns now close out their round robin with a much anticipated battle with Canada tomorrow night to determine top seed while the Slovaks rest until January 2 to play an opponent not yet known.
“We have to get back to the way we were playing the first few days,” said coach Robert Petrovicky. “We took too many penalties and they were all over us today. We have to forget about this and start tomorrow to get ready for the quarter-finals.”
It was clear from the beginning an important part of the Finnish game plan was to go to the net hard and make life uncomfortable for goalie Samuel Hlavaj. Time and again scrums flared after the whistle, but the Slovaks seemed unable to do much about the aggressive play. To make matters worse, they gave Finland the first four power plays of the game, not getting one of their own until late in the second.
The Slovaks had their fair share of play in the first, but it was Suomi that scored the only goal of the opening period. The play stared off a bad giveaway by Martin Chromiak in his own end and finished when Kasper Simontaival fed a perfect pass to Lundell going to the net. Lundell merely redirected the puck in the back side at 8:57.
The Finns had two other great chances when pucks slid under Hlavaj and rolled towards the goal line, but in both cases defenceman Andrei Golian made strong stick checks on Finns to prevent the puck from going in.
The best chance for the Slovaks came while playing short-handed. David Mudrak made a nice rush only to be stopped by Piiroinen, but Mudrak got a second chance from the side of the goal and slid the puck through the crease and out.
The Finns added two more goals in the second and sucked all the competitive fire out of the Slovaks with their relentless forechecking and smooth puck movement. They made it 2-0 at 6:09 to end a lengthy delayed penalty situation when Topi Niemala patiently fired a shot through traffic to beat a helpless Hlavaj.
Two and a half minutes later Simontaival got a loose puck alone in front, and although Hlavaj stopped the initial deke, defenceman Oliver Turan accidentally poked the puck into hs own goal.
Soon after Hlavaj made the save of the game, kicking out his left pad to stop a sure goal off a one-timer from Roni Hirvonen.
Santeri Hataka made it 4-0 at 6:10 of the third when his bad-angle shot went over the shoulder and off the side of Hlavaj’s mask and in. A minute later, it was 5-0 thanks to Helenius. Hlavaj made the first stop on Benjamin Korhonen on a clear chance but was in no position to corral the rebound. Helenius scored again at 13:49 to put the game even further out of reach.