Finland right wing JANNE PESONEN (20) of Russian Kontinental Hockey League club Ak Bars Kazan, the 30-year-old veteran who racked up 32 goals to go along with 82 points in 70 American Hockey League games for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Penguins during the 2008/09 campaign, watches as Germany goaltender ROB ZEPP (72) of Deutsche Eishockey Liga champion Eisbaeren Berlin secures the puck in his glove during the 2013 IIHF World Championships – Group H contest at the Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, Finland.
Despite skating shorthanded for the equivalent of three-quarters of an entire period, embattled GERMANY came within a minute and a half of defeating host FINLAND for the first time at a major international tournament in twenty years before eventually falling 4-3 after extra time in the opening match for both sides at the 2013 IIHF World Championships.
There is little question that the national team program of Germany is under the proverbial microscope after failing to qualify for the men’s ice hockey tournament at the XXII Winter Olympic Games to be held next year in Sochi, Russia. Against the host Finns at the Hartwall Arena, the Germans certainly came under heavy scrutiny from the match officials, who ended up assessing Canadian-Italian legionnaire trainer PAT CORTINA’s charges no fewer than nine minor penalties. Germany might have also fared better with more luck from the goal post in Helsinki, as well.
Nevertheless, Germany still earned what could prove to be a very significant point in the Group H standings against Finland and, perhaps more importantly, generated a certain amount of confidence and optimism not just among the national team players, but, indeed, the people of Deutschland, as well.
Finland trainer JUKKA JALONEN, who has been in charge of the national team since the beginning of the 2008/09 campaign, returns only six skaters and no goaltenders from the squad that lost the bronze medal match at home in Helsinki to the Czech Republic last season. Jalonen, who steered Suomi to the gold medal triumph at the 2011 IIHF World Champinoships in Slovakia and sports a career record of 26 wins and 13 losses behind the bench for Finland at major international tournaments, has only one National Hockey League player on his roster at the 2013 IIHF World Championships but has left two places open. Forward LAURI KORPIKOSKI, the first round pick (# 19 overall) of the New York Rangers at the 2009 NHL Draft who has scored 42 goals in 197 NHL games the past three seasons for the Phoenix Coyotes, did not dress for the opening contest with Germany.
PETRI KONTIOLA of Russian Kontinental Hockey League club Traktor Chelyabinsk, the 28-year-old center who skated a dozen NHL games a collected five assists for the Chicago Black Hawks during the 2007/08 campaign, sent the Finns to the lead with a power play goal roughly ten and a half minutes into the contest after taking a cross-ice pass from JUHA-MATTI AALTONEN of Swedish Elitserien side BK Rogle Angelholm and slamming the puck into a wide open net.
But the Germans were able to equalize halfway through the match when center MARCEL GOC of the Florida Panthers, one of the two NHL players in Deutschland’s line-up, picked out FELIX SCHUETZ of Koelner Haie all alone in front of the net; quick stickhandlilng enabled the 26-year-old right wing, who spent two seasons skating for the Portland Pirates in the American Hockey League before signing with ERC Ingolstadt in the summer of 2010, to fake out Finland netminder JONI ORTIO, the Calgary Flames prospect who spent this past term out on loan with IFK Helsinki, and register his sixth career goal for Germany at a major international event.
Germany right wing FELIX SCHUETZ (55), the fourth round selection (# 110 overall) of the Buffalo Sabres at the 2006 NHL Draft, tied for the Koelner Haie team lead with 23 goals and finished second with 41 points in 50 Deutsche Eishockey Liga contests this season.
The Germans continued with their parade to the penalty box in the latter half of the second period, however, and Finland were, once again, able to capitalize with just over half a minute to skate before the second intermission. Right wing JANNE PESONEN of Russian KHL club Ak Bars Kazan, who appeared in seven NHL games for the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 2008/09 season, did very well to redirect the point shot from defenseman JUUSO HIETANEN of Russian KHL club Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod. The Finns might have had a few more goals, though, were it not for the 22 saves that Germany netminder ROB ZEPP of Eisbaeren Berlin, the 31-year-old naturalized Canadian who spent two years with Finnish elite league side Saipa Lappeenranta after leaving the Florida Everblades of the East Coast Hockey League in the summer of 2005, recorded in the first forty minutes of play.
Despite being heavily outshot, the Germans hauled themselves level yet again only two seconds after veteran defenseman OSSI VAANANEN of Jokerit Helsinki, the highly experienced 32-year-old who skated 479 NHL games for the Phoenix Coyotes, Colorado Avalance and Philadelphia Flyers and is appearing for Finland at his ninth major international tournament, was sent off for holding early in the third period.
Goc won the ensuing faceoff cleanly and NHL colleague CHRISTIAN EHRHOFF of the Buffalo Sabres blasted a rocket right past Ortio, the 22-year-old youngster who was representing Finland at a major international event for the very first time ever, to net his fifth career goal for Germany in a major international tournament.
Germany’s star NHL defenseman CHRISTIAN EHRHOFF (10) of the Buffalo Sabres is pestered by Finland center JUKKA-PEKKA HYTONEN (15) of Russian KHL club Amur Khabarovsk behind the net during the 2013 IIHF World Championships – Group H contest at the Hartwall Arena in Helsinki.
Deutschland looked to be in great shape after defenseman TORSTEN ANKERT of Koelner Haie, one of three German blueliners who are appearing at a major international tournament for the first time in their careers, found the back of the net with a long, low drive from the right point. Indeed, Germany were only a little over three minutes away from upending stubborn Finland at a major international event for the first time since the 1993 IIHF World Championships in Moscow. But, alas, it was not to be.
The skillful Kontiola made a sensational play to bat the puck out of the air, baseball-style, at the side of the net and then swoop out in front to slot the black disc past the bamboozled German goaltender with a little less than a minute and a half remaining in regulation time. Goc was then boxed for tripping only just before the sixty minutes had expired, which meant that Germany were forced to start the overtime period with just three skaters defending against the Finns’ four. Just after the penalty expired, 24-year-old winger SAKARI SALMINEN of Kalpa Kuopio skated into the left faceoff circle and rifled a wrist shot that 27-year old winger VELI-MATTI SAVINAINEN of Assat Pori was able to deflect ever so slightly.
Germany had battled like a champion, nonetheless, in its first meaningful international match since the historic Olympic qualification debacle.
On the heels of Deutschland’s historic reunification, Finland have now won fifteen times while falling just once in the 17 matches with Germany at all major international tournaments since 1991. The two nations first met at a major international event during the 1939 IIHF World Championships in Basel, Switzerland (the Germans triumphed 12-1 on that occasion). As for the all-time series at the majors between the two countries, the Finns have won 37 while the Germans have won 11 with eight matches having been tied (this is the official record of the Bundesrepublik Deutschland, of course.)
IIHF World Championships
Group H – Helsinki, Finland
Hartwall Arena – attendance : 12,115
referees : Frano (Czech Republic) and Kirk (Canada)
FINLAND 4 – GERMANY 3 … (ot)
10:22 … FIN – Kontiola (Aaltonen, Pesonen) – ppg
30:21 … GER – Schuetz (M. Goc, Rankel)
39:27 … FIN – Pesonen (Hietanen, Kontiola) – ppg
42:34 … GER – Ehrhoff (M. Goc) – ppg
56:55 … GER – Ankert (M. Goc, Gogulla)
58:31 … FIN – Kontiola (Pesonen)
61:58 … FIN – Savinainen (Salminen, Mantyla)
shots-on-goal : FIN 38 GER 18 … penalty minutes : GER 18 FIN 6
FINLAND : Ortio – Lepisto, Heitanen ; Laakso, Mantyla ; Vaananen, Jalasvaara ; Kukkonen, Melart – Pesonen, Kontiola, Aaltonen ; Salminen, Viitaluoma, Haataja ; Savinainen, Koskiranta, Pihlstrom ; Hagman, Hytonen, Antilla
GERMANY : Zepp – Ehrhoff, Hoerdler ; N. Goc, Mueller ; Baxmann, Ankert ; Kuhl – Rankel, M. Goc, Schuetz ; Wolf, Ullmann, Gogulla ; Seidenberg, Kink, Tripp ; Greiling, Hager, Mauer ; Noebels
Notes — new captain CHRISTIAN EHRHOFF logged 29:30 minutes of ice time for Germany, including 10:36 of the last period and all but two seconds of the overtime session … MARCEL GOC, who totaled 19:54 of ice time, assisted on all three German goals and, in doing so, posted a career high for points in one game at a major international tournament.
The official record of the old Deutsche Demokratische Republik (commonly known as East Germany) against Finland at major international tournaments was eight wins against ten losses with one draw.