Both the CZECH REPUBLIC and FINLAND brought offensive ability to the University of British Columbia Thunderbird Arena for their quarterfinal match at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada.
What materialized in the midst of the pressures associated with the Olympic tournament was a defensive struggle featuring a good, old-fashioned goaltender’s duel between Finland’s MIIKKA KIPRUSOFF of the Calgary Flames and the Czech Republic’s TOMAS VOKOUN of the Florida Panthers.
The game, at least statistically, was quite evenly contested. The first period would have the Finns finish with an 11-10 edge in shots-on-goal. The second session would have that same result reversed in favor of the Czechs. Indeed, for the whole sixty minutes, each time would generate a matching thirty-one shots upon one another’s goal.
Five minor penalties to the Czech Republic in the first period meant star forward JAROMIR JAGR of Russian club Avangard Omsk saw just 2:08 of ice time from coach VLADIMIR RUZICKA in the opening twenty minutes.
Finland, however, failed to take advantage of its power play opportunities with solid penalty-killing and Vokoun in net carrying the Czechs.
In the second period, the Czech Republic did better to avoid the wrath of the referees and organize more attacks but found Kiprusoff to be in fine form for the Finns.
After 52 minutes of scoreless hockey, Finland finally broke the stalemate after the Czech Republic’s MARTIN ERAT of the Nashville Predators was sent to the penalty box.
Already a man down, the Czechs had their problems compounded in short order.
Critically, Finnish forward NIKLAS HAGMAN of the Calgary Flames was left alone in front when defenseman JANNE NISKALA of Swedish club HC Vastra Frolunda Goteborg let go his slapshot from the Finnish point. Hagman, the son of the first Finn to ever play in the National Hockey League, redirected the puck through Vokoun’s five-hole for the game’s first goal. For Hagman, it marked his third goal in four games for Finland at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
The Czech Republic defenseman PAVEL KUBINA of the Atlanta Flames had been at the center of it all. Kubina had lost his helmet in a collision with Hagman, who had started the play with a rush into the Czech zone. Shortly before Niskala discharged his shot, Kubina, realizing he had no headgear, suddenly left Hagman to collect his helmet behind the net.
“It was tough luck for us, because the defenseman lost his helmet and he had to go pick it up. But, that’s a part of the game,” Jagr later reflected.
In the 59th minute, Finland’s VALTTERI FILPPULA of the Detroit Red Wings effectively killed off the Czechs’ last chance with an empty-net goal seven seconds after Vokoun had gone to the bench for an extra attacker.
FINLAND 2 – CZECH REPUBLIC 0
Shots-on-goal : Finland 31 – Czech Republic 31
FIN goals : Hagman, Filppula
Finland’s ANTTI MIETTINEN outmuscles the Czech Republic’s MARTIN ERAT (91) in his bid for the black disc. Erat collected a critical penalty late in the contest at UBC Thunderbird Arena. (Reuters photo)
to be continued…