Fort St. John, B.C.
FINNS COME ALIVE ON OFFENCE, BEAT RUSSIA FOR FIRST U17 WIN
JASON LA ROSE
FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Jesse Koskenkorva and Eeli Tolvanen had two goals apiece, leading Finland past Russia 6-3 on Monday afternoon for its first victory at the 2015 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
It’s the second year in a row the Finns have beaten the Russians in the preliminary round; they scored a 5-4 shootout win in the round robin in Sarnia, Ont., last November, but came out on the wrong end of a 6-1 score against Russia in the semifinals.
Bernard Isiguzo and Kristian Vesalainen also scored for Finland, which held off comeback attempt after comeback attempt by the Russians, particularly in a back-and-forth second period.
Tolvanen got the scoring started at the 12:24 mark of the first, taking a pass in the slot and snapping a quick shot off the far post and in past Russian netminder Arseni Akhmetov, and Koskenkorva’s first – he batted a rebound out of mid-air – doubled the advantage less than two minutes later.
Trailing by two despite outshooting Finland 9-7 in the first period, the Russians cut the deficit in half just 4:53 into the second period when Yaroslav Alekseev drove the Finnish net and chipped the puck over a sprawling Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen.
Koskenkorva got that back just 77 seconds later, restoring the two-goal lead and chasing Akhmetov, but Vladislav Kazamanov ripped a point shot past Luukkonen only 1:29 after that to make it a 3-2 game.
The goal barrage continued at 9:03 when Tolvanen’s rocket on the power play beat Maxim Zhukov, quickly followed four minute later by a goal from Russian captain Klim Kostin, who brought the defending gold medallists within one again.
In all, the teams combined for five goals in 8:26, and Finland took a narrow 4-3 advantage to the intermission.
The Russians continued to buzz in the third period but could never find the game-tying goal, and Bernard Isiguzo snuck a shot under the arm of Zhukov at 6:14 to provide insurance for the Scandinavians.
Kristian Vesalainen capped the scoring into an empty net in the final minute of play.
Both teams are 1-1 and finish the preliminary round Tuesday at North Peace Arena; the Finns are up first, meeting Sweden in an all-Nordic match-up (2:30 p.m. MT), followed by Russia taking on Canada Red (7 p.m. MT).