Finland and Germany met on the opening day of the 2021 World Junior Championship. Five different Finnish players scored goals as the team skated to a convincing 5-3 victory. Shots on goal were 50-22 for Finland. Germany only had nine forwards and five defensemen in the lineup as nine players were unavailable because of COVID-19 protocols.
The Finnish team opened the scoring 3:38 into the first period. Roni Hirvonen delivered an excellent pass to defenseman Santeri Hatakka, who had activated from the point and moved into space. The San Jose Sharks prospect moved the puck to captain Anton Lundell, who finished up high from close range.
With only 12 seconds remaining in the first period, the Finns increased their lead. Ville Heinola gave an accurate tape-top-tape pass to Henri Nikkanen, who had room on the wing and took a rising shot on net. German goalie Arno Tiefensee made the initial save, but Aku Räty got to the rebound first and scored through five-hole.
Mikael Pyyhtiä extended the lead to three goals early in the second period as Mikko Kokkonen’s point shot ricocheted off of the forward. It was a lucky bounce, but credit to Pyyhtiä for going to the net and being in the right place.
A few minutes later, Germany got on board with a power play goal from Samuel Dube. The forward was given a direct route to the net and he did not waste the opportunity. Moments before the goal, Dube already had a great scoring chance in the same shift.
Midway through the second period, German captain Tim Stützle took his team within one goal. After an offensive zone turnover from the Finns, Florian Elias made a long pass to John-Jason Peterka. The Buffalo Sabres prospect set up Stützle for the goal with a superb, timely pass in a 2-on-1.
It didn’t take long for the Finns to find the back of the net again, though, as defenseman Topi Niemelä and center Henri Nikkanen scored less than two minutes apart. Niemelä displayed great lateral movement and unleashed an accurate wrister on the glove side. Nikkanen attempted a pass from below the goal line and the puck bounced in off a German player’s skates.
Finland had a 5-2 lead heading into the final 20 minutes. German forward Florian Elias added his second point of the game as he scored on a rebound that came off his initial backhander from the slot.
Overall, it was a strong performance from the Finnish team. They looked a little bit nervous early on in the first period, but the quick goal from Anton Lundell helped settle things down and from then on they could really dictate the pace of the game through puck possession.
As far as individuals are concerned, Santeri Hatakka, Ville Heinola and Topi Niemelä stood out on the Finnish defense. Germany’s first line of Tim Stützle, John-Jason Peterka and Florian Elias was dangerous and clearly their best trio, but the team lacked in depth to match their opponent.
Cover photo: IIHF.com