Finland and Czech Republic Tie it on

By Chris McCluskey

He was the top goaltender in this tournament last year
and he’s making a strong case to cement himself as a
repeat recipient of the award in 2003 as the Czechs
can rightly say they were robbed tonight by phenom
Kari Lehtonen, who was Finns’ savior in a 2-2 tie at
the Halifax Metro Centre tonight. Team Finland had no
business coming away with a point as the Czech
Republic gave everything they had and Finland
struggled to muster anything throughout the game.

The Czechs maintained great pressure throughout the
match, throwing everything they had at the 19 year old
Atlanta Thrashers goaltending prospect but could only
find the twine twice. Lehtonen made difficult stops
look routine including a save off of a quick Jan Holub
shot from the top of the right circle and stoning an
unwatched Petr Taticek who had all the time in the
world to bury it but couldn’t put it past the Finnish
netminder. The Czechs finally got one past Lehtonen
at 19:25 but unfortunately Jiri Hudler rang it off
both posts with a sweeping backhand and it remained
scoreless after one.

It was the Finns who got on the board first three
minutes into the second when the puck seemed to be
jammed against Holub’s skate in front of Czech net.
But Matti Aho banged it loose and beat a screened
Martin Falter who, although only facing 17 shots, made
a lot of remarkable saves at the other end of the ice.
Team Czech Republic would reply midway through the
period when Jiri Hudler, who is definitely one of the
most noticeable players in the tournament, finally
beat Lehtonen on a one-on-one by blasting a howitzer
from the top circle over the glove side shoulder of
the Finn goaltender to make the score one aside. The
score remained that way through two periods with
Lehtonen’s significance to his team verified in shots
with the Czech Republic far ahead by a count of 26-11.

A scary moment for the Czechs early in the third
happened when their own star goaltender Martin Falter
seemed to be grimacing on the ice after making a
series of difficult saves. He left the ice under his
own strength and immediately had a towel wrapped
around his neck, but he would return. Ottawa 67s
starter Lukas Mensator took to the crease for about
seven minutes and faced two shots but one of them
managed to get by the goaltender who, to his credit,
came in cold. Tomi Maki beat Mensator with a snapper
to put the Finns up 2-1. Falter came back in at 12:03
to finish the game but due to the outstanding play of
Lehtonen it looked like the damage was done.

The
highest European goaltender ever drafted in the NHL
turned aside everything coming his way including a
great shoulder save off of Tomas Fleischmann and a
stop on Hudler who accepted a pass from his defencive
zone at the Finn blue line and came in all alone. It
looked like the Finns would come away a miraculous two
points but the Czechs’ desperation and determination
finally paid off as 2003 draft prospect Milan Michalek
broke out of his scoring slump, spinning and sliding a
Jiri Hudler rebound past Lehtonen who had no chance
and the score was tied up at two.

It would remain that way for the rest of the game as
the Finns killed off the remaining four minutes. Kari
Lehtonen must have been a unanimous decision for
player of the game for the Finns who will have to step
it up against the Canadians on New Years Eve for a
game that will decide who will get the coveted first
place position in the standings. Although he has had
a very disappointing tournament so far, Milan Michalek
received player of the game honors for scoring the
game tying goal. The Czechs are back in action
against Team Sweden Tuesday afternoon.


PERIOD 1

Scoring:

none

Penalties:

0:48 FIN Timonen 2 (Holding)

10:37 FIN Jaaskelainen 2 (Holding)

11:53 CZE Novotny 2 (Holding)


PERIOD 2


Scoring:


3:56 FIN Aho 1 (Niinimaki)

13:49 CZE Hudler 2 (Novotny, Krajicek)

Penalties:

9:02 FIN Maki 2 (Interference)

15:32 FIN Bergenheim 2 (Boarding)


PERIOD 3

Scoring:

8:03 FIN Maki 1 (Jaakola, Mikkonen)

15:56 CZE Michalek 1 (Hudler, Klepis)

Penalties:

8:10 FIN Lehtisalo 2 (Hooking)

14:37 FIN Fagerstedt 2 (Interference)

——————————————————-
PLAYERS OF THE GAME

Finland: Kari Lehtonen, 33 saves

Czech Republic: Milan Michalek, 1 goal (game tying)

——————————————————-

GOALTENDERS

Finland: Kari Lehtonen (2-0-1)

Czech Republic: Martin Falter, 0:00-45:44 &
52:03-60:00 (1-1-1), Lukas Mensator (45:44-52:03)

——————————————————-
LINE COMBINATIONS

Finland:

Juntunen-Jokinen-Ruutu
Bergenheim-Maki-Naatatnen
Aho-Niinimaki-Mikkonen
Lehtisalo-Fagerstedt-Sykko

Pitkanen-Jaakola
Timonen-Immonen
Jaaskelainen-Jalasvaara
Kalteva

Czech Republic:

Michalek-Hudler-Klepis
Domin-Vondracek-Novak
Novotny-Taticek-Fleischmann
Koreis-Dvorak-Micka

Karajicek-Puncochar
Chmelir-Holub
Toms-Turon
Svoboda-Kolda

——————————————————-
SHOTS ON GOAL

123F

Finland83819
Czech Republic14 12935

——————————————————-
OFFICIALS

Referee: Alexander Poliakov
Linesmen: Miroslav Halecky, John Costello