The late game on day one was another big rivalry in European hockey when the reigning champions from Finland faced their neighboring country Sweden. Sweden had won an incredible 48 round robin games in a row coming into this game which means they had not lost a round robin game in over ten years – their last loss came in 2007. These were the lineups for the game.
The big story in the game was Finnish goalie Justus Annunen (COL) who made a lot of great saves to keep Finland in the game despite Sweden being in control for most of it. Here, Finland makes a bad mistake in the offensive zone and defenseman Rasmus Sandin (TOR) gets on a breakaway but Annunen makes an incredible double-save.
But Annunen wasn’t the only goalie having a good game because at the other end, Hugo Alnefelt (TBL) was doing magical things of his own. Here, he stops a shorthanded breakaway opportunity by forward Antti Saarela (CHI). Excellent pass by winger Sampo Ranta (COL) to send Saarela to his breakaway.
Late in the first period, Finland gets on the power play. Winger Patrik Puistola (CAR) makes a great pass to defenseman Anttoni Honka (CAR) who just barely misses the net. Puistola retrieves the puck and gives it to Kristian Tanus who passes it back to Honka. Honka passes to Puistola, looking for a redirection. Puistola’s stick is held but the puck goes in from his blade. Finland goes up 1-0.
Early in the second period, winger Nils Höglander (VAN) scores what will likely be the goal of the tournament. He has scored two of these in the SHL but this is the first time a goal like this has been scored at the World Juniors. He is absolutely phenomenal with these. Winger Samuel Fagemo (LAK) gets the only assist on the goal.
Later in the period, it’s time for Tanus to score while Puistola gets the only assist. Both guys with a goal and an assist in the game. Pretty weak defensive effort by the Swedes, and there was really nothing Alnefelt could have done to stop this.
Fagemo had a couple of excellent scoring chances but he kept running into a wall named Annunen.
Samuel Fagemo probably can’t wait for this game to be over. He’s had 3 excellent scoring chances, and Annunen has stopped them all. Here’s the latest. pic.twitter.com/H4jAMylNuJ— Jokke Nevalainen (@JokkeNevalainen) December 26, 2019
As good as Annunen was, this save by Alnefelt may get the “Best save in the game” status. Defenseman Lassi Thomson (OTT) was absolutely certain he would score from here but Alnefelt manages to get his blade in front of the shot.
Then came the moment that no one in Finland wanted to see – number one center Rasmus Kupari (LAK) was injured after a clean hit by defenseman Philip Broberg (EDM).
The latest news on Kupari’s situation is that he’s day-to-day which is a positive sign because he hasn’t been ruled out for the entire tournament just yet.
UPDATE: Kupari’s tournament is over.
Finland can probably survive their next three games against Slovakia, Kazakhstan and Switzerland without Kupari but they desperately need him for the quarterfinal game. Finland registered 12 forwards and eight defensemen to start the tournament which means they will have to play with 11 forwards if Kupari is unable to go – they can’t add anyone anymore.
Annunen continued to keep Finland in the game despite the team’s lackluster effort. He stopped a breakaway attempt by winger Alexander Holtz (2020) and great chances by Höglander and winger Jonatan Berggren (DET).
But even Annunen couldn’t stop everything. He gave up a juicy rebound to Fagemo who was finally able to get past Annunen – it was his eighth shot in the game that finally did the trick.
It was a bit of a quiet game for winger Matias Maccelli (ARZ) but he showed his high-end skills in flashes, and this pass in overtime is a good example of that.
This was Finland’s best chance in OT. W Matias Maccelli (ARZ) made a great backhand pass to LHD Santeri Hatakka (SJS) but Hugo Alnefelt (TBL) made an excellent save. #WorldJuniors pic.twitter.com/8em1TPsHz1— Jokke Nevalainen (@JokkeNevalainen) December 26, 2019
But it wasn’t meant to be. Holtz gets past Annunen with just five seconds left in overtime. Sweden extended their win streak to 49 games. What a remarkable streak that is.
Annunen and Höglander got the Best Player nominations but Alnefelt and Fagemo were also excellent for Sweden, and of course you can’t ignore what Puistola and Tanus did either. Annunen stopped a total of 45 shots, and many of those were excellent scoring chances, so this could have been a blowout if it wasn’t for him. David Gustafsson (WPG) didn’t get any points but he played over 23 minutes and won 19 out of 24 faceoffs, so he contributed in his own way as well – he allowed his wingers Höglander and Fagemo to focus on offense.
Sweden’s horses on the back-end, Sandin and Nils Lundkvist (NYR), played big minutes; over 26 minutes for Sandin and over 23 minutes for Lundkvist. It was a bit surprising that Tobias Björnfot (LAK) only played about 16 minutes in the game, considering he started the season in the NHL and came to the tournament from the AHL.
But the ice time numbers for Finland were even weirder; Ville Heinola (WPG) and Honka played less than 13 minutes even though they were supposed to be the number two pair. Of course Finland was protecting a lead for much of the game and those two are more known for their offense but still, that seems like a weird thing to do. Puistola, the player who had a goal and a primary assist, played the least amount among the entire team – just a little over 11 minutes.
In case you’re curious, these were Finland’s power play units:
Rasmus Kupari-Kim Nousiainen-Matias Maccelli
Anttoni Honka-Joonas Oden-Kristian Tanus
And these were Sweden’s power play units:
Samuel Fagemo-David Gustafsson-Nils Lundkvist
Alexander Holtz-Nikola Pasic-Lucas Raymond
And that’s all for now, thanks for reading. Feel free to add comments below. Remember to follow me on Twitter @JokkeNevalainen.
Main picture courtesy of MileHighSticking.com
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