The showcase championship for best and brightest in upcoming Ice Hockey professionals, the International Ice Hockey Federations 2016 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships, saw more talent than you can shake a stick at, and it was the Finnish WJC Team that came out on top.
Finns Win WJC 2016
• Hosts of the tournament
• Beat Slovakia & Sweden
• Victory over Russia
Helsinki saw a level of influx by foreigners recently that neighbors Sweden and Denmark have reintroduced border checks to prevent, however this wasn’t yet another episode in the ongoing immigration saga, but the annual WJC hosted by Finland where the Under-20 year old talents from the world of Ice Hockey got to show off their skills in front of scouts, fans and fellow players in a cavalcade of some of the best hockey you’ll see all year.
Naturally national pride is a big part of the tournament, however it is the benefit to individuals that lifts this from being just another youth competition to being the arena in which to shine if you want to get on in this hugely competitive career. The Finnish WJC team had the added home advantage but even with that behind them it was never going to be an easy competition for them, and their campaign started out at full speed as they tried to build momentum from the off.
Their win against Belarus in game one showed the Finnish WJC team were going to be worth watching, the six nil hammering coming all in one lump with no goals in the first period, just one in the second and the other five raining home in the final third. It was the sort of start that Timo Backman had wanted from the team and head coach Jukka Jalonen had seemingly pulled them together into a hugely competent performance, and if you liked to bet on sports in Finland it was all the indication required.
Every Game But The First A Hard Fight
Hoards of Finns, hopes raised by the demolishing of Belarus, used sites like ComeOn! Sportsbook and Bet365 to back their team going into the next game, and whilst Russia were far stronger opponents fans were optimistic of victory. It was, unfortunately not to be, and the Finnish WJC team struggled in the mid portion of the game conceding three more than they scored. So then a loss 6-4 against the Russians and now challenging games against Slovakia and the Czech Republic loomed.
Slovakia proved momentarily worrying for the Finnish WJC team as the boys from the Balkans took the lead in the first period going 2-1 up, but Finland kept their cool and quickly pushed back grabbing two without reply to take the lead in the second period, and then in the final period began to take advantage of their superior endurance and knocked home five to Slovakia’s one, coming away 8-3 winners, but would the Czech Republic be as easy to defeat?
If you took advantage of Finnish gambling laws to back the Finnish WJC team against the Czechs you already know the answer is no. A very evenly matched game went into the third and final period of play all square at 3 apiece and when Spacek grabbed a potential winner for the Czechs it took goals from Laine and Puljujarvi to save the Finnish WJC Team from their own blushes. This 5-4 victory earned them second in the group stage table and a quarterfinal against the capable Canadians.
Canada Can’t Contain Finnish WJC Team
Canada took the lead on January 2nd, going two up before Laine snatched one back just before the end of the first period, with Kalapudas equalizing as the second got underway, but it was when Crouse scored for Canada that something seemed to set the Finnish WJC team alight and they grabbed two back from Saarela and Nattinen, Marner did his best to give Canada the win in the third period but Aho and Laine both scored giving the Finns a thrilling 6-5 win and a place in the semis.
There’s nothing like running into old friends at overseas tournaments and the Finnish WJC team strode into a semifinal fixture against long term regional rivals Sweden who were arriving on the back of a six-nil smacking of Slovakia. This positivity showed, and the Swedes took the lead before the Finns came back at them, exceeded their score and hung on to the narrowest of margins to take the 2-1 win and take that finals slot against Russia who had beaten the US by the same score in the other semi.
The WJC final in 2016 was a humdinger of a game with Russian star Kamenev putting them ahead and the rest of the team sitting on that lead for another thirty five minutes until just seconds into the third period Laine did his thing and equalized, Svetlakov gave Russia the edge again but within minutes Aho had drawn the Finnish WJC team level again, then Rantanen pushed the Finns into the lead with only three minutes to go, it seemed it might be all over, but it wasn’t.
Finnish WJC Team Win Final In Overtime
With 59:54 showing on the clock Svetlakov got the equalizer for Russia and an already electrifyingly tense game went into overtime with the scores all square at three apiece and the fans of both sides chewing their own limbs off in nervous excitement. Overtime, a bit like a penalty shootout in soccer, is always a bit random, but Kapanen’s goal less than two minutes in sealed a famous win for the Finnish WJC team and I wouldn’t go gambling news pages in Finland will let anyone forget anytime soon.
This is the Finn’s second gold medal at the WJC in the last three years, their skill and dedication manifest as they only seemed to get one easy game all tournament, and you can bet that players like Laine, Aho and Puljujarvi are likely to get all sorts of offers from teams abroad on the back of this masterly performance that saw them display the skills you’d expect and some maturity and patience that you perhaps wouldn’t from chaps so young.
The Russians go home with silver, with which they’ll be disappointed, and the Americans the bronze having defeated a lackluster Sweden demoralized after their loss to the Finnish WJC team in that tight semifinal, and as the players look at their contractual offers the WJC circus goes silent for a while before it all starts off again in the race towards the WJC 2017 in Canada at the end of the year. Will the Finns win back to back golds? We’ll have to wait and see.