Finland beat Switzerland 6-3 to win bronze at the 2004 U18 Compuware Four Nations Cup in Ann Arbor, MI.
Right wing Ville Korhonen (1 goal, 2 assists), center Pertu Lindgren, (1 goal, 2 assists), right wing Mikko Lehtonen (1 goal, 2 assists) and left wing Robert Nyholm (1 goal, 1 assist) led the previously winless Finns to victory. Finland scored four consecutive goals in the second and third periods and held Switzerland to just three shots in the third period to win the
Finland opened the scoring at 2:34 of the first period. Lehtonen burst
down the right wing and passed the puck to the slot to Jussi Peltomaa,
who fired a shot that was stopped by goalie Reto Berra. But the rebound bounced right to Peltomaa, who whacked at the puck several times before
sliding it into the goal for the game’s first mark.
The Swiss bounced right back, tying the game less than 30 seconds
later. Rushing in on a two on two, Swiss center Fabrizio Conte ripped a slap
shot that went through the glove of goalie Jani Nieminen.
Less than two minutes later, the Swiss were at it again. Left wing Aurelio
Lemm raced from the half boards to the slot and fired a shot at Nieminen.
The Finnish goalie made the first save, but Lemm whacked in the rebound
to give the Swiss a 2-1 lead.
Finland struck next in the see-saw first period. Nyholm eluded a
defenseman and stormed toward the net on a two-on-one with Lindgren. Nyholm feathered a pass through the defenseman to Lindgren, who jammed the puck under Berra at the 8:27 mark.
Five minutes later the Swiss jumped back into the lead when Nieminen
had trouble controlling a rebound. Jeremy Gailland beat everyone to the puck and chipped the puck over Niemenen’s stick shoulder.
The first period ended with Switzerland ahead on the scoreboard, 3-2,
and the shot clock, 12-7.
The Finns took over in the second period, however. Just over five
minutes into the period, Korhonen found Nyholm open between the circles.
Nyholm blasted a slapshot which Berra came out to save. The rebound came out to Nyholm, who skated to his left and then whipped the puck past the malpositioned goalie and into the net to tie the score at three.
The Finns continued to press. Two minutes later defenseman Joni
Haverinen set Lehtonen free with a long pass up the right wing. Lehtonen, with
a defenseman draped on his back, charged hard to net, and stuffed the
puck into the net as he and the defenseman crashed into the goaltender.
By the end of the period, Finland had taken the lead and the momentum
in the game.
Things got worse for the Swiss early in the third period. The team got
caught running around in its own end during a long shift. Finnish
winger Joona Karevaara found himself alone with the puck to the left of the Swiss goal.
Berra came out to challenge Karevaara, who then played the puck to the
slot, where winger Teemu Mustainiemi fought off his check and swiped the puck into an empty net for a 5-3 lead.
A little more than a minute later, Finland hammered the final nail in
the Swiss coffin while on the power play. Lehtonen cruised the half
boards and snuck a pass between to Swiss players to Korhonen, who one-timed
a slap shot into the top corner over Berra’s blocker.
With a 6-3 lead, Finland settled into a defensive posture and managed
to hold the Swiss team to just three shots in the period.
Finland finished the tournament with one win, two losses and a tie.
Switzerland won once and lost three.
• Switzerland played without one of its top players, right wing Pascal Zbinden. Zbinden was checked heavily into the boards in a game Thursday, but
officials traveling with the team said he missed the game due to a fever.
• In Zbinden’s place, Diego Schwarzenbach was moved from defense to the
top line. He did a nice job on the forecheck and created several
scoring chances in the first two periods.
• Finland was without hard-hitting forward Tommi Huhtala, forward
Joonas Enlund, and defenseman Jujo Mielonen.
• Two Finnish defensemen had outstanding tournaments. 6’2 Tommi
Leinonen was a physical and sturdy in his own end all week. 5’11 Mikael Kurki showed speed, skill and poise, scoring two goals and adding two assists
for the tournament. Both are eligible for the 2005 draft.
• Mikko Lehtonen finally broke out, scoring a goal and adding two
assists. He has decent speed for a big guy (nearly 6’4), he’s strong on his skates, he can shoot the puck and he’s got stickhandling skills. But for most of the tournament, he was a little too fancy and unwilling to give up the puck to teammates. But in this game, he dished off early and often and put two pucks behind the goalie by using his speed and strength to crash the net. (One goal was waved off because the net was
dislodged). Lehtonen, who plays for Blues Espoo in Finland, is eligible for the 2005 draft.
• Perhaps the most consistent forward of the tournament for Finland was
winger Robert Nyholm. The 6’1 forward excelled early in the tournament
as a fourth-line checker. He used his speed and size to cause all kinds
of problems for opposing defensemen. As the tournament progressed,
Nyholm also displayed good offensive skills. By the
bronze medal game, Nyholm had been moved the second line and was on the
penalty kill and power play. Nyholm’s hard work was rewarded with a goal and assist in the bronze medal game. Born in 1988, Nyholm will be someone to keep an eye on for the 2006 draft.
• The official players of the game were Swiss forward Aurelio Lemm,
another 2006 eligible player, and Ville Korhonen.
• Finnish left wing Jussi Peltomaa improved as the tournament went on. The 6’0 winger dished out several hard hits against the smaller Swiss team and he worked very well with Lehtonen.
• 6’4 Swiss defenseman Alessandro Chiesa also finished strong. He was sturdy in his own end, cleared the crease and dished out some solid hits along the boards. He also skates pretty well for a big kid.
• Swiss right wing Dario Burglar was held with out a point in the final game. He still led the team in scoring with 3 goals and 2 assists in the tournament. Still, for some reason, he was held on the fourth line and, with
coach Alfred Bohern’s strict adherence to rolling four lines, Burglar
never got the ice time that some of the other top scorers got in the
tournament. Burglar has good speed and a heavy wrist shot. He also fights
through checks to make a play. Born in late 1987, he’s eligible for the
• Finnish center Miika Lahti never did get on track. Although he showed flashes of talent, he was often invisible and he was held without a
point in four games, despite regular play on the first and second lines and the power play.
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