For Whom The Bell Tolvanens
For Whom The Bell Tolvanens
Hat trick for Finland's #20 in QF win vs. Russia
The Finns, who won silver at last year's tournament in Switzerland, will play in the final four for the sixth time in eight IIHF World U18 Championships. In the semi-final, they will face the winner of USA-Czech Republic.
"We battled hard all game," said Tolvanen. "I’m proud of the team."
Laakso, Finland’s goalie for all four group games, was a late scratch, but Luukonen was competent as the Finns outshot Russia 32-26. It was a hard-fought affair.
"The guys did good, and Ukko-Pekka played a really great game for that situation, that pressure," said Finnish head coach Jussi Ahokas. "We were the favorites before the game. It was an early game, and we didn’t quite get the best out of ourselves. But the biggest thing is just to win, and that’s what our team did."
Jesse Puljujarvi, Finland's 2016 World Junior MVP, made his presence felt with a goal and an assist after being blanked in his debut in the 3-1 loss to Canada.
The Russians, who did their best with a primarily U17 roster at this tournament, will go home empty-handed. Russia's last U18 medal (bronze) came in 2011.
Maxim Marushev, Dmitri Samorukov, and Yaroslav Alexeyev scored for Russia.
"Actually, we did well [here]," said Alexeyev. "Everybody struggled hard. Unfortunately, we didn’t do enough. So that’s why we lost."
The Finns appeared to be a little sleepy with the noon start. They initially couldn’t get anything going on a pair of first-period power plays. Russian goalie Danil Tarasov made nice saves on Tolvanen and Markus Nurmi.
Finland finally broke through with 3:41 left in the first period. Kristian Vesalainen, surrounded by Russian defenders, got the puck to Tolvanen, and he cut into the middle and unleashed a wrister that beat Tarasov on the glove side.
At 6:31 of the second period, Puljujarvi showed why he's a prospective top-three pick for the upcoming NHL draft. Killing a penalty, the Russian defence backed up against the big forward, giving him plenty of time to cue up a wrist shot that sailed past Tarasov’s glove.
Of Puljujarvi's play, Ahokas said: "The big thing is that we’re getting him the puck more and he’s getting more comfortable, getting to know the guys. The best games for him are still ahead."
The teams traded goals in a wild flurry midway through the game.
The Russians got on the board at 10:07 of the second. Danil Lobanov cut in off the left side and, at the last second, slid a slick pass across the crease to Marushev, who banged it in the open side to make it 2-1.
Finland had a swift answer. Just 41 seconds later, Tolvanen got loose on the right and beat Tarasov high to the stick side.
The Russians replied 17 seconds later to cut the deficit to 3-2, as Samorukov glided to his left and floated a high shot past Luukkonen through traffic.
With 21 seconds left in the middle frame, Tolvanen completed his hat trick with the eventual winner, blasting a power play one-timer from the right faceoff circle right through the Russian netminder.
"He’s a goal-scorer," Ahokas said of Tolvanen. "He had tons of chances against Canada where he usually puts the puck in. But now he had a great three goals. He’s going to be a tremendous player."
Russia tried to fight back late in the third period. Mikhail Bitsadze sent a sweet cross-ice pass to Yaroslav Alexeyev, whose one-timer along the ice made it 4-3 with the man advantage at 12:31.
But there would be no last-minute heroics, even though coach Sergei Golubovich pulled Tarasov for the extra attacker in the dying moments.
Yaroslav Alexeyev said he was happy with Russia's play overall despite not medaling: "It was a really good performance for this team."
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