NEVASAARI SCORES TWICE, LEADS FINLAND PAST CANADA RED
SAULT STE. MARIE, Ont. – A two-goal performance by Arttu Nevasaari provided the boost Finland needed to beat Canada Red 3-2 in the opening game of the preliminary round Sunday at the 2016 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
Following a slow start to the game, with no scoring in the first period and shots 7-6 in favour of Finland, Nevasaari capitalized 2:32 into the middle frame, with just one second remaining in a Canadian penalty.
The Finnish forward picked up the puck at the half boards and walked into the slot, beating Canada Red goaltender Kevin Mandolese (Blainville, Que./Cape Breton, QMJHL) through a screen.
But Finland couldn’t carry momentum through the rest of the period. Canada Red held the Finns in their own zone for minutes at a time, but the defence and goaltender Justus Annunen held their ground and turned away the Canadian offence, maintaining the 1-0 lead.
But that advantage wouldn’t last long once the third period started, as Canada Red found its way onto the scoreboard thanks to Riley Stotts (Winnipeg, Man./Swift Current, WHL), who picked up the loose puck and curled into the slot before firing a shot past Annunen to even the game.
The Finns answered on the next shift; Lenni Killinen flew into the Canadian zone and dropped to Nevasaari, who beat Mandolese low to the blocker side for his second of the game, just 57 seconds after the Stotts goal.
A lttle over six minutes later, Niklas Nordgren threw the puck on net from a sharp angle, sneaking a shot through Mandolese and doubling the Finnish lead to 3-1.
Ryan Merkley (Mississauga, Ont./Guelph, OHL) tried to start the Canadian comeback with less than five minutes to go, rushing end-to-end and snapping a shot past Annunen on the power play, but despite sustained pressure and an extra attacker, Red could not find the equalizer.
The Canadians finished with a 24-18 advantage in shots on goal.
Finland will move to the John Rhodes Community Centre for its second preliminary-round game Monday, taking on Russia (6 p.m. ET), while Canada Red will look to bounce back against Sweden in the night-cap (7:30 p.m. ET).