Finland’s Jussi Peltomaa scored midway through the third period to tie up Team Sweden 2-2 in Monday’s opening game of the 2004 Under 18 Compuware Four Nations Cup in Ann Arbor, MI.
With just over 10 minutes to play, a turnover created a three-on-one break at the Swedish blue line. Peltomaa and linemate Joonas Wedman
worked a beautiful give-and-go across the slot before Peltomaa finally slid the puck past helpless goaltender Joel Gistedt. Peltomaa’s goal came just as it appeared like Sweden might pull away in a strange game in which both teams struggled to maintain consistency.
Team Sweden, coached by Mikael Tisell, started the first period strong, attacking with skilled passing and swift skating. But Finnish goalie
Juha Toivonen kept kept the Swedes of the scoreboard, which allowed the the Finns to use their pestering physical game to turn the momentum in
their favor. Despite three minor penalties in the first, the Finns managed to carry the play for the remainder of the first period.
Still, neither team could find their way to the back of the net in an
awkward first period.
The awkward got weird before the puck dropped to start the second
period. For whatever reason, the Swedes were three or four minutes late
getting back from the break, leaving the officials and Finnish players alone
on the ice to start the second period. When the team finally reappeared, it was penalized for delay of game, ruining a power play that was to
have carried over from the first period.
Less than a minute into the period, with Finland on a power play, defenseman Mikael Kurki took a pass from winger Mikko Lehtonen in the slot.
Kurki ripped a low slapshot in and out of the net so fast that several Swedes disputed the goal.
Finland continued to carry the play, thwarting the Swedes’ long bomb
passes with a tenacious forecheck. But for one offensive spurt in which
Swedish forward Fredrik Petterson had three dangerous scoring chances, the Swedes offense sputtered.
The Finns’ tenacity turned to belligerence midway through the period. And they paid for it, finding themselves killing off a five-on-three man
advantage. Though the Swedes were unable to capitalize, they moved the puck well and regained their confidence.
With two minutes to play in the second, a Finnish rearguard muffed an attempt to glove a high dump in near his own blueline. Big winger Johan Dahlberg poked the puck free, raced in all alone and deked out Toivonen to tie the game at 1.
The Swedes continued to take charge in the third thanks in no small
part to the Finns’ inability to stay out of the sin bin.
Just over six minutes into the period, with a Finn in the box for too
many men on the ice, Petterson floated a saucer pass onto the stick of
Niklas Hjalmarsson. From the point, Hjalmarsson ripped a slapper over the shoulder of Toivonen to give the Swedes a 2-1 lead.
Goran Stubb, a scout for the NHL Central Scouting Bureau in Europe, thought it turned out to be an exciting game.
“It was a little mucky in the first period, but both teams played well today,” said Stubb, who will be watching these kids play hockey right up until the NHL entry draft — if there is one.
“I’ve been watching this age group play together since a tournament in August. I’ll watch them here. Then they’ll play again in December and again in February. It’s interesting to watch the progress they make,” he said.
Stubb, a native of Finland, said two of his countrymen caught his eye tonight: Forward Mikko Lehtonen and defenseman Juho Mielonen.
The tournament continues Tuesday as Finland takes on Switzerland and the United States plays Sweden.
• 6’2 winger Dahlberg impressed many with his combination of size,
speed and skill. Dahlberg scored Sweden’s first goal, a dandy, and threw
several big hits along the boards. He is 2005 eligible.
• A 16-year-old who impressed was Finnish winger Robert Nyholm.
Nearly 6’2, Nyholm is big and fast. More than one Swedish defenseman coughed up the puck due to his hard work.
• So what took Sweden so long to return from the first intermission,
which lead to a costly Finland powerplay goal? We don’t really know. It might have had something to do with the goalies. Sweden started the game with Mattias Modig in goal but switched to Joel Gistedt in the
• Maybe the delay had something to do with clearing the cobwebs from Andreas Molinder’s head. In the final second of the first period, the Swedish
winger was rocked by a huge open-ice hit by Tommi Huhtala. It was easily the biggest hit of the game.
• The official players of the game were Hjalmarsson and Kurki. But the most dangerous players of the game were Mikko Lehtonen and Fredrik
Petterson. Lehtonen used his speed and shot to create chances all night.
Petterson wasn’t quite as consistent. But on one shift he had three unbelievable scoring chances. His next shift, a five-on-three power play, he
whiffed on cross-ice pass that had Toivonen way out of position. He
finally came through by setting up Hjalmarsson’s goal.
• Joel Gistedt came in for Mattias Modig to start the second period in
goal for the Swedes. After allowing a strange goal on the first shot he faced, he was very good. Toivonen was equally good between the Finnish pipes.
Leinonen is the workhorse on the Finns’ defense. He was strong all night, in every situation.
• Finnish center Miika Lahti had a tough night. Despite good speed and a nice shot, he couldn’t find much room to move. By the end of the
game, he looked exhausted and had trouble keeping his balance in scrums.
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