Saturday, 11 April 2009

European Deal - Slovakia vs. Finland

Slovakia and Finland are running through their warm-ups right now. Finland is coming off a 6-2 victory over the USA yesterday afternoon, while the Slovaks were punished by the Russians to the tune of 21-2 yesterday morning. In an interesting piece of information, this is the first year that the Slovakian squad has played together. Previously, only the four teams - Canada, Finland, Russia, and the USA - had competed for hockey supremacy. The reason they are at the World Championships is that Slovakia is hosting the 2012 Winter Deaf Olympic Games. Gaining another team is good news for this event going forward. Yes, no one likes to see a team get demolished like the Slovaks were yesterday, but they compete hard and never say die. That's exactly what you want to see from a brand-new team. Work ethic can't be taught, and the Slovaks bring that in spades. If anything, the Slovaks should use the Finnish squad as an example of how to play this game. They're also a hustle team, and they never give up on any play until the whistle blows.

Finland will be in their white home jerseys. As per yesterday, they will feature the Snickers logo on their jerseys. Personally, it really stands out on the white jersey. The Slovaks will be in their dark blue jerseys. As I was checking out their uniforms for any sort of manufacturer's logo, it occurred to me that the Slovakian goaltenders have some pretty impressive paint jobs on their masks. Branislav Puskac appears to be a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Yes, it's hard to see, but they don't exactly stop to pose for me either. Just take my word that he has the throwback-style maple leaf on his helmet.

We're about eleven minutes from the start of this game. The crowd is sparse for this game with about 100 people in attendance from what I guess-timate. But that is to be expected for these two European teams as their game is being played a long way from home.

As the officials do a little patching on the ice, it appears that Finland will be starting #31 Arttu Liikamaa in today's game. #30 Jon Kuchta guards the net at the Slovak end of the ice. Here are your highlights of the first period:

  • As expected, Finland has the pressure on the Slovaks. Unlike the Russians, though, it appears that they are working on skills and perfecting set plays rather than simply trying to score. Classy move by Finland as they know they outmatch the Slovaks.
  • Not much to report as we're 2:19 in, but the Finns are showing they can cycle the puck very well. The Slovaks have kept the front of the net fairly clear of pucks when the Finns have thrown it in front.
  • 16:38 sees Finland get on the scoresheet. After a scramble in front, the rebound comes out to #6 Reko Sietsalo at the high slot. He makes no mistake as he buries it. Finland leads 1-0.
  • 16:31 has the Finnish squad on the board again. After a nice forehand-backhand deke, #14 Victor Lindfors slides it home on the backhand. Finland leads 2-0.
  • 16:06 has Finland add another goal. #24 Janne Yrjola breaks in off the left side, and roofs it over top of Kuchta's glove hand. Finland leads 3-0.
  • Finland strikes again at the 14:38 mark. #3 Sami Vuoriheimo scores on the powerplay as he snaps a shot home from just above the left wing faceoff circle. Finland leads 4-0.
  • Finland is on the scoresheet once again as they notch another goal at the 13:45 mark. #3 Sami Vuoriheimo buries it in front of the net. Finland leads 5-0.
  • I have to hand it to Kuchta. He's clearly frustrated after a goal is scored, but he hasn't given up on any play. If Kuchta is to be the goalie of the future for the Slovakian National Deaf Hockey Team, this is a trial by fire indeed. Kudos for him for playing hard on every shot.
  • 9:27 left, and Finland pots another goal. #21 Kristian Lantto rips a shot from the slot high gloveside off the post into the back of the net. Finland leads 6-0.
  • With 6:08 remaining in the first, Finland nets lucky number seven. #14 Victor Lindfors picks up his second of the game by firing home a shot from the slot. Finland leads 7-0.
  • The Finnish goaltender, Liikamaa, is skating out near the hash marks with his helmet sitting atop his head. He seems to be gesturing that he has only faced two shots.
  • With 4:57 left, Finland is back on the board. #7 Marko Liimatainen wires home a shot through traffic. Finland leads 8-0.
  • With 3:42 left, Finland shows precisely what kind of skill it possesses. #22 Jan-Erik Granvik goes end-to-end untouched before burying a shot on the backhand past Kuchta's blocker. Finland leads 9-0.
  • Finland makes it a nice round number as they score again with 3:02 remaining. #7 Marko Liimatainen scores his second of the game. Finland leads 10-0.
  • No offence to Finland, but this is getting ridiculous. 1:41 remaining in the first, and #22 Jan-Erik Granvik notches his second. Finland leads 11-0.
  • And with no letting up, Finland strikes while shorthanded with 30 seconds left. #14 Victor Lindfors has his hat trick goal after finishing off a two-on-no-one. Finland leads 12-0.
I just want to interject with my own thoughts here. I understand how international hockey tournaments work with the goal differential coming into play as a tie-breaker. But this is one of the stupidest rules in the sport. I'll go on record as saying it's dumber than a medal-round shootout to decide a winner. Slovakia isn't going to benefit by losing by 30 goals to Finland.

Running up the score is an embarrassing part of the game, and it should be outlawed to encourage stronger teams to play smarter while keeping weaker teams from being humilaited. Slovakia is being humiliated right now by this score, and we still have 40 minutes of hockey to play. I'm not saying they have to create a mercy rule like they have in international baseball, but someone needs to come up with something to stop this kind of on-ice massacre.

Rant over. Second period is about to start:
  • 47 seconds into the second period, and Finland is back at it. #20 Kimmo Hoivassilta slides home another goal from Finland from in front of the net. Finland leads 13-0.
  • 18:03 remaining, and Finland is out in front by two converted touchdowns as #24 Janne Yrjola scores again. Finland leads 14-0.
  • With 17:17 remaining, Finland continues to pile on the goals. #22 Jan-Erik Granvik picks up his hat trick goal. Finland leads 15-0.
  • With 14:42 remaining, #20 Kimmo Hoivassilta breaks in off the left wing around one defender, and pulls Kuchta off the post before sliding a backhand in along the ice. Finland leads 16-0.
  • With 10:51 left, #14 Victor Lindfors adds his fourth as he goes upstairs blocker-side after breaking in on the left wing. Finland leads 17-0.
  • With 9:08 remaining, Finland scores again. #24 Janne Yrjola deflects the Sami Vuoriheimo shot past Kuchta. Finland leads 18-0.
  • With 8:36 remaining, Finland ties Russia's goal differential against Slovakia as Yrjola scores again. Finland leads 19-0.
  • With 5:17 remaining, Finland now has the goal differential advantage as they score their 20th of the game. #20 Kimmo Hoivassilta has #20. Finland leads 20-0.
  • With 5:11 left, #7 Marko Liimatainen adds another. Finland leads 21-0.
  • 3:34 left in the second, and #19 Eetu Keski-Levijoki pots another goal as he nets the rebound. Finland leads 22-0.
  • With 2:21 remaining, #3 Sami Vuoriheimo nets a Finnish powerplay goal off a rebound. Finland leads 23-0.
In looking at this score, this is going to create a major problem for the Canada-Slovakia game on Monday. Canada will literally have to blow the doors off Slovakia to keep pace with both Russia and Finland. As sad as this is to say, Canada will most likely have to win by 30+ goals to keep pace with the Finns.

That's a ridiculous thought. And embarrassing for the sport.

Third period action coming up from the Slovakia zone:
  • With 17:55 left, #7 Marko Liimatainen taps in a gift at the side of the net. Finland leads 24-0.
  • With 17:12 remaining, #14 Victor Lindfors scores his fifth of the game as he picks up a loose puck and buries it blocker-side from the slot. Finland hits the quarter-century mark, and still isn't letting up. Finland leads 25-0.
  • Jan-Erik Granvik nets another goal on a one-timer at 16:32. Finland leads 26-0.
  • Eetu Kiska-Levijoki taps in a cross-crease pass at 14:58. Finland leads 27-0.
  • There seems to be some sort of personal war going on down on the ice. Jan-Erik Granvik jut skated past the Slovak bench in full flight and pointed at the Slovaks. He then cruised into the Slovakian zone, made a couple of Slovakian defenders look like pylons, and took a shot that was turned aside by Kuchta. I don't know what's going on, but, from up here, Granvik is becoming the epitome of poor sportsmanship. 12:15 remaining in this debacle.
  • With 11:49 remaining, Finland scores on another one-timer. #26 Elias Nurminen has his first of the tournament. Finland leads 28-0.
  • And another one-timer with 11:20 remaining rubs more salt in the wound. #14 Victor Lindfors adds his sixth. Finland leads 29-0.
  • #19 Eetu Kiska-Levijoki scores with 10:53 remaining. Finland leads 30-0.
  • Finland scores again. #14 Victor Lindfors. That's seven. Finland leads 31-0.
  • Can someone on the Finnish bench just put an end to this? #21 Kristian Lantto pots his first. Of the period. Finland leads 32-0.
  • 5:34 remaining, and Finland is still pushing for goals. Lantto has his second. Finland leads 33-0.
  • In what looks like he's annoyed, #4 Janne Nyberg scores for Finland and then has words and a facewash for a Slovakian defenceman. He makes a motion to indicate he was being cross-checked, but I guess that's the luxury you can afford being up 34 goals - a penalty really won't change the outcome at that point. Finland leads 34-0.
  • Finland adds another with 1:26 remaining. Surprisingly, it's Jan-Erik Granvik. Finland leads 35-0.
  • With 42 seconds left, Finland pushes for more. A goal-mouth scramble sees #10 Oskari Salomaa poke home another goal. Finland leads 36-0.
  • With 15 seconds remaining, Finland scores the all-important 37th goal of the game. #24 Janne Yrjola pots that game-clinching goal. Excuse my biting sarcasm. Finland leads 37-0.
Wrap-up for this game is completely unnecessary aside from commenting on the grandstanding done by the Finnish team. Look, I'm all for scoring goals, but 37? Is there a point to this kind of humiliation? The rule needs to be changed for tie-breakers. 'Nuff said.

Player Of The Game - Slovakia: #30 Jon Kuchta.
Player Of The Game - Finland: #24 Janne Yrjola.

No games scheduled for Easter Sunday, so I'll be recapping some of the hockey news I have missed while watching these games. To the entire deaf community, thank you for allowing me to take part in these games, and it has been a pleasure to work alongside you. Your hospitality has not gone unnoticed, and I'll be back on Monday to take in another game.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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