International Ice Hockey Federation

Yes! Jesse and the boys win

Yes! Jesse and the boys win

Puljujarvi scores two as Finland downs Czechs 5-4

Published 31.12.2015 23:02 GMT+2 | Author Risto Pakarinen
Yes! Jesse and the boys win
HELSINKI, FINLAND - DECEMBER 31: Finland's Miska Siikonen #13 and teammates celebrate after a second period goal against the Czech Republic during preliminary round action at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship. (Photo by Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images)
The Finnish hockey fans said goodbye to 2015 with a smile on their faces, thanks to Finland's 5-4 over the Czech Republic in the World Junior Championship.

Jesse Puljujarvi scored two, Patrik Laine one, and their centre Sebastian Aho collected two assists in the game. Puljujarvi, 17, now has five goals and 12 points in the tournament.

"It was a tough game, with lots of action and goals. I don't think we've played a great 60-minute game yet, but we got the win," he said.

His centreman, Aho, acknowledged that the line's self-confidence is at an all-time high now. 

"Of course, success breeds success and boosts confidence. And with a sold-out arena supporting us, there was no need to look for motivation," he said. 

For the Czechs, the loss was bitter. 

"The power play decided the game. We were better in the third period, and we proved to ourselves that we can beat any team in the tournament. Next time, we just won't touch the opponent," said Jiri Smejkal, unhappy with some of the calls that went against them. 

The Finnish defence had been hit hard with illnesses and injuries. Vili Sopanen injured his knee in the game against Slovakia and with Miro Keskitalo sick, coach Jukka Jalonen had turned centre Miska Siikonen into a defenseman. In the first period, Finland lost also Vili Saarijarvi to the stomach flu, and had to finish the game with four defensemen. 

But up front Finland was still dangerous. Especially the top line with Sebastian Aho, Patrik Laine, and Jesse Puljujarvi was, as expected, an offensive threat every time they stepped onto the ice, even if they didn’t manage to get the puck over the goal line in the first period. Then again, nobody did. 

Czech Republic had a breakaway to start the second period, but Veini Vehvilainen made a save, and Finnish defence sent the puck quickly out of the zone. Sebastian Aho carried the puck into the zone, and tried to send a saucer to Puljujarvi, but a Czech defenseman stopped it. Aho followed the play and flipped a backhander to Puljujarvi who fired the puck into the net, giving Finland a 1-0 lead in the game. 

Three and a half minutes later, it was time for the Czech lion to roar. The Czechs managed to keep the puck in the Finnish zone for an extended period of time, and it had the effect they desired. Finland turned the puck over and David Pasternak and Michael Spacek played the puck to Jiri Smejkal, who wired the puck top-shelf and tied the game. 

Just 1:46 later, the Czechs had taken the lead. The limping Finnish defence found themselves scrambling in the own zone and the Czechs played the puck to Jan Ordos who had an easy job to tap in the puck from Vehvilainen’s doorstep. 

But the Finns came back. Now it was the Czech defence who turned the puck over in their own zone, and Roope Hintz could drive to the net all alone, and flip the puck through Vanacek’s five-hole and tie the game at 8:06 into the second period. 

And then they took the lead again. Kasperi Kapanen and Filip Hronek got dangled up in the neutral zone, and the referee sent Hronek to the box for roughing. On the ensued power play, Kapanen held the puck on the left faceoff dot, and sent a long pass through the Czech box and Antti Kalapuhdas one-timed 3-2 for Finland, with his first goal of the tournament. 

"It was a strange game with lots of back and forth," said Kapanen, whose grandfather Hannu was in the stands wearing his lucky sports jacket, the one he wore as coach of the 1998 World Junior Championship team. 

"His jacket must have worked, because I felt lucky out there," Kapanen added, with a laugh. 

With 59 seconds remaining in the period, the Czechs got on a power play when Kasper Bjorkqvist took a roughing minor. Dominik Masin got the puck at the half-wall, and he waited David Sklenicka to follow the rush. He dished it to Sklenicka who fired a cannon of a shot and beat Vehvilainen on his blocker side and the game was tied with 33 seconds remaining in the second period.

The Czech Republic took over the game in the third period outshooting Finland 9-4 by the halfway point, and most importantly, outscoring Finland. With 11:23 remaining in the third period, Pastrnak carried the puck into the Finnish zone, waited until Spacek was in the sweet spot on the other side, and sent a long pass which Spacek one-timed to the back of a net for 4-3. 

But Finland had Jesse Puljujarvi and a lethal powe rplay. Olli Juolevi sent a long and hard pass to Julius Nattinen by the side of the net, he sent it quickly to Puljujarvi in the front of the net, and the 17-year-old scored his second of the night. 

Three minutes later, it was the other 17-year-old's turn to show off his skills. On another power play, Sebastian Aho played the puck to Juolevi, who drove to the slot, then dropped the puck to Patrik Laine, and he fired a shot that raised the roof of the sold-out arena, and gave Finland the 5-4 lead in the game.

And the win.  


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