Finland managed to start their 2021 World Junior Championship campaign with a win against a gutsy team from Germany, who had multiple players out of the opening game due to COVID-19. The gutsy Germans gave it their all and fought hard to create the upset, but saw themselves on the losing end of a 5-3 scoreline. Despite the best efforts of Tim Stützle, Finland won due to these key factors going their way.
Early Finnish Goal
As an underdog taking on a massive hockey nation chasing an upset, one of the key elements of the gameplan is to keep the game close and tied for as long as possible. Make the favorites work for their goals and frustrate them by constantly being level with them. The absolute worst that can happen is that the underdog allows a goal within the five minutes, and suddenly has to chase a way back into the game.
This was, unfortunately, the case for Germany, when Finland exploited an icing by Germany to keep a long attack going. After a few great passes, Santeri Hatakka sent a puck across the zone to a wide-open Anton Lundell, who easily fired the puck into the back of the net.
It was a horror start that shaped the game, with Finland getting momentum from the first faceoff, and despite some nice flashes where they brought the score within one, the Germans weren’t able to keep up with Finland over the duration of the game. To make it worse, John-Jason Peterka had a glorious chance to give Germany the lead a few minutes before that when he ripped a shot just over the bar. Had that gone in, and Germany held on the lead for longer, the upset would have been within reach.
Arno Tiefensee: Young Goalie Invaluable for Gutsy Germans
Another very important part of forcing an upset is goaltending. The goalie has to make some absolutely fantastic stops and in the World Juniors, find a way to make miraculous saves happen. The favorites are favorites for a reason, and they will try to send a ton of shots towards the goal, so the goalie needs to be playing on top of his game. Tonight, Arno Tiefensee got the start in net for the gutsy Germans and, while he wasn’t terrible, he wasn’t spectacular either.
One play especially comes to mind, when Tiefensee, with thirteen seconds left in the first period, bubbled a weak shot from the point by Henri Nikkanen. The rebound ended up between his legs and before he was able to find it, Aku Raty had poked it through his legs and given Finland a two-goal lead after the first period. A heartbreaking goal that killed all momentum the Germans were creating from an overall strong period.
This cannot happen as the underdog and resulted in Finland instead of Germany coming out with fire and potentially tying the game. Finland started the second period well and scored within two minutes of the period to make it 3-0.
The last thing that Finland used to win tonight’s game against the Germans was seeking out the favorable bounces by firing the puck on the net. Everything went towards the net and from every angle, it seemed as if the Finnish were just throwing the puck towards Tiefensee. While most didn’t end up with quality chances, there is always a chance of something odd happening with a tactic like that, and tonight Finland scored twice on broken plays and fortunate bounces.
The first when Mikko Kokkonen fired a shot towards the net and had it deflect off Mikael Pyyhtia and into the net. The second came when Nikkanen from behind the net, tried to make a cross-crease pass but hit Luca Munzenberger‘s skate, which fooled Tierfensee and made it 5-2, which all but iced the game.
Lucky without a doubt, but Finland was following the luck and creating chances for lucky bounces to occur. With over 40 shots on the net, there is a chance that those plays can happen, and tonight they did, which gave them two goals that were the goals they ended up winning by in the end. Had they not been actively seeking it by sending the puck on the net, the upset might have happened, as the gutsy Germans fought harder than expected and can be proud of their game tonight.
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