The Finnish U16 national team, consisting of 44 players born in 2002, played a three-game series against Germany in Vierumäki this past weekend. For the first two games, the players were split into two teams, and the coaching staff chose 22 players for the final game.
The first game – which Finland won 8-7 – was a very interesting one. Germany started the game well and got on the scoreboard first. However, Finland gained a 6-2 lead, with Oliver Suni putting up a hat trick. Germany was able to cut the lead to 6-4 in the second period, then suddenly scored three goals in less than two minutes to start the third. However, Suni tied the game at 7-7 with a power play goal in front of the net. Juuso Mäenpää scored the game-winning goal after Veikka Hahl intercepted a pass and set up the Jokerit forward for the tap in.
On Saturday, Finland opened the scoring first after Valtteri Karnaranta took the puck to the net and Kalle Myllymaa finished the play. Germany would tie the game at 27:27, but Topias Kaski scored on the power play off an excellent feed from Aatu Räty. Kaski would eventually score the 4-3 game winner in overtime, with Räty getting his third assist of the game. There were clear improvements in Finland’s play and they could have won by a large margin had goalie Arno Tiefensee not played an excellent game in net for Germany. The final game was a really solid performance from the Finnish team, who defeated the Germans 5-1.
All-in-all, I thought forwards Oliver Suni and Aatu Räty (both Kärpät) were really good during the three days – both are players to keep a close eye on. Suni is a high-volume shooter, strong on the puck in board battles, and reads the game well. Joel Määttä had two solid games on the first line. Topias Kaski played a dependable game and got on the scoresheet as well. Roni Hirvonen, Eero Niemi and speedy Valtteri Karnaranta also stood out. Juuso Mäenpää and Veikka Hahl showed good chemistry and made plays in the final third. I liked especially the top centers that made the final team – Räty, Hirvonen, Mäenpää and Kalle Myllymaa.
Christoffer Sedoff continuted to look like a top defenseman in the age-group. Kärpät blueliners Topi Niemelä and Kasper Puutio also made a strong impact. Niemelä is highly mobile, physically solid and run the power play well, using his heavy shot frequently. Matias Rajaniemi and smooth-skating, smart puck mover Joona Lehmus showed good upside. Amongst goalies, I was most impressed by Joel Blomqvist and Niko Lappi. Neither faced a whole lot of shots but were sharp and came up with some athletic saves.