International Ice Hockey Federation

Finland blasts France

Finland blasts France

Kakko’s individual mastery breaks resistance

Published 20.04.2018 19:05 GMT+5 | Author Slava Malamud
Finland blasts France
CHELYABINSK, RUSSIA - APRIL 20: Finland's Jesperi Kotkaniemi #9 with a scoring chance against Valentin Duquenne #1 of France while Samuel Guer #16 looks on during preliminary round action at the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. (Photo by Andrea Cardin/HHOF-IIHF Images)
It took Finland a better part of two periods to break the French defense, but, with a bit of individual heroics, Suomi got their second win at the U18 Worlds.

Kaapo Kakko broke the stalemate in the 12th minute of the second period and ended up with two goals and an assist in Finland’s dominant 7-0 victory over France. Ville Petman added two goals of his own, with Konsta Hirvonen, Anton Lundell and Niklas Nordgren providing the rest of the scoring for the Suomi. France’s goaltender Valentin Duquenne came up with more heorics in a losing effort, as his team was outshot by the ludicrous 51-10 margin.

At the previous night’s game between France and Russia, local fans had unfurled a giant Russian flag behind one of the nets, causing the home team to turn towards it instead of the official raised banner during the playing of the national anthem. Things were more quaint during the Friday afternoon France – Finland tilt, as many fans appeared holding big sheets of poster paper with the flags of the two nations painted on them in watercolors. This was the work of a young Traktor Ice Arena volunteer, who, considering the Group B national contingent, better have a good, steady supply of blue and red.

The Finns, who had to rely on their power play to shake off the pesky Slovakia, looked to reassert themselves against the unassuming newbies.

"We just want to win gold", said Leevi Aaltonen in an unambiguous statement of the Suomi mindset. "I think, we have a chance to win."

The French, who managed to keep Russia in single digits almost entirely by the grace of their goaltender Valentin Duquenne, wanted to get their offensive game in gear and, maybe, even let Jere Huhtamaa, making his U18 Worlds debut, work a little, too.

Neither of these objectives was achieved in the first period, as the French were once again forced into an ultra-defensive posture, but in doing so, managed to lull the Finnish offense into, if not sleep, then at least utter ineffectiveness. And the Finns once again found their best chances on the power-play, including a prolonged two-man advantage, but were steadfastly kept off the board by the combination of goalposts, Duquenne, and their own propensity for missing wide-open point-blank shots.

Duquenne had once again acquitted himself as well as could be hoped for under the circumstances, frustrating the powerful opponent well into the second period. The lanky French netminder is also apparently on a quest to make a head save his signature technique, as he had a few more pucks go off his helmet, in addition to similar saves made last night against Russia.

The Finnish issues were finally resolved at 11:17 of the second, when they gave France a little bit of their own medicine, in the sense of living out the Napoleonic idea that the destiny of nations can be decided by a single determined individual. To that end, Finland’s goal was scored by Kaapo Kakko, assisted by Kaapo Kakko, after a great play by Kaapo Kakko. In essence, a certain Suomi player took the puck around the entire French team, including the goalie and his net, and scored on a wrap-around.

"I just kept the puck a little bit and tried to move as hard as I can", said Kakko after the game. "It felt like we finally got a big moneky off our backs. For me personally, too, since I had a lot of good chances in the first game." 

Having achieved individual glory, Kakko was more than happy to elevate his comrades to his newly-scaled summits and, at 15:02, he spun around in the low slot to find Petman, who connected with a one-timer. This was too much for the French, who sounded a full retreat and wound up routed once again. Hirvonen put in a rebound after Duquenne saved the initial shot by Jesse Moilanen with 29 seconds left in the period to make it 3-0.

The third frame brought no relief for the French who had abandoned all attempts at puck possession outside their own zone. Lundell, the hero of Finland’s first game, got his fifth point of the tournament by knocking the puck in amid a tangle of sticks in the crease at 7:54. Seconds later, Petman scored on a wrap-around to extend the lead to 5-0.

"We just skate better", as Leevi Aaltonen succintly put it in his laconic, to-the-point English, giving the full picture of the chasm separating the two squads. 

At 11:51 Kakko went back to the well after being first to the loose puck around the right circile and slamming it past Duquenne on the short side. Nordgren’s breakaway goal put the end to France’s suffering as Les Bluetes have relinquished seven goals in the second game in a row.

"We spent a lot of the game in the offensive zone", said Kakko. "Against the Russians, we may need to play tighter defensively."

Both teams will be off tomorrow before returning to action on Sunday. France's opponent will be Slovakia, while the Finns will take on the hosts in a battle of Group B favorites.

 

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