The opening game of the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup in Piešťany certainly did not disappoint, as Finland and the USA played out a thrilling game, with the Finns taking the victory 3-2 in overtime.
Penalties: 5:5. PP goals: 1:2. SH goals: 0:0.
Referees: Stano, Štefik - M. Orolin, Výleta. Attendance: 240.
Waltteri Hopponen lit the lamp with a wrist shot from the high slot 59 seconds in the extra session, making good on the man advantage after the United States took two penalties in the final minute of regulation. It was a cruel blow for the U.S., who equalised with two and a half minutes left to go in the third period, as Kyle Connor scored on the powerplay to level the game at 2:2.
However, Connor would then haul down Finland’s captain Manu Honkanen in the neutral zone to give Finland a 5 on 4 powerplay, before Jack Dougherty was handed a slashing penalty with twenty-four seconds to go in the third period, providing Finland with the platform they needed to take the two points.
Speaking after the game Connor was upbeat, saying, ‘We battled all game. In the third we were all over them. A couple of bounces here and there and we could have had the game. It’s disappointing but we are happy with the way we played’.
In a game that went back and forth, the United States often had the better scoring chances, although Finland’s top line, with Teemu Lamsa at centre and Juho Lammikko and Mikko Rantanen on the wings, caused the U.S. problems. However, it was the U.S. who opened the scoring eight minutes into the opening frame, as Portland Winterhawks forward Paul Bittner scored against the run of play.
It only took 35 seconds of the second period for Finland to equalise though, as smart puck movement opened up the American defence, and Juho Lammikko was able to find Mikko Rantanen at the back post, who made no mistake and found the back of the net.
Connor would go on to hit the post nine minutes into the second period, which provided more frustration for the Americans, as when they were not hitting the frame of the goal, Finnish netminder Kaapo Kahkonen was making save after save. The Espoo Blues netminder made a number of great saves as he was awarded the player of the game for the victors. A fantastic sprawling pad save on Joseph Schmaltz with five minutes remaining in the second period was the pick of his 25 saves.
Speaking about that save, Schmaltz said, ‘It’s really frustrating, but you have just got to keep going. You have to keep working hard and maybe one of them goes in’.
Finland called a time out early in the third period after a period of sustained American pressure, and Rauli Urama’s words of wisdom paid dividends, as three minutes later Finland jumped to a 2:1 lead, as Jokerit forward Miro Makinen scored on a broken play, getting his stick to the loose puck and firing it under the pad of Alex Nedeljkovic in the United States goal.
The chances dried up late in the third period, as Finland were unable to capitalise on their powerplay opportunity in the final minute in order to take all three points, but with this victory they take a vital two points going forward.
U.S.A head coach Bob Corkum added after the game, ‘It’s disappointing. I thought we had enough scoring chances and shots on net to win the game.’