Mikko Koskinen helped Finland win the Karjala Tournament with an event-leading 93.88% save percentage. Photo: Minas Panagiotakis / HHOF-IIHF Images
Denmark, Latvia & Russia also win events
It was a busy weekend for 24 men’s national teams during the international break. Finland, Russia, Denmark, Latvia and Poland were among the tournament winners.
Finland ended the Karjala Tournament with a 4-3 victory against Canada before 13,037 fans in Helsinki to win the tournament on home ice.
Eeli Tolvanen scored a power-play goal midway through the third period to break a 3-3 tie with Canada and give the home side victory in the Karjala Tournament with a perfect 3-0 record. The game was played before a sold-out crowd at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki.
The loss put Canada in fourth place with one win and two losses. Russia and Sweden finished with 2-1 records, the former receiving superior placing based on goals difference.
The Czechs tied with Canada with one win and the Swiss finished in last, going winless in the tournament.
Normally a pleasant event during a league break in European club play, this year’s Karjala Tournament had greater importance because teams used the event as a testing ground for players hoping to represent their countries at next February’s Olympics. To that end, Canada and Switzerland were added to the schedule which is usually reserved for four teams (Finland, Czech Republic, Russia and Sweden).
Finland won its three games thanks to several positive factors. Mikko Koskinen was sharp in goal for Suomi in two games; the defence allowed only two goals a game; and, the players gelled like a team. As well, 18-year-old Miro Heiskanen played like a veteran and looks to be a good bet to go to PyeongChang.
Russia scored the most goals of the six teams (13), in large part thanks to Mikhail Grigorenko, who scored four of his team’s goals and finished atop the scoring table with six points. Three of those goals came on the final day in a 5-2 win over the Czechs.
Sweden lost a 3-1 decision to Finland to start the Helsinki part of the tournament and played its best in completely shutting down Canada in a 2-0 win. Par Lindholm was the hero there, scoring two power-play goals – one in the second, one in the third – to give Tre Kronor all the offense it needed.
The team then posted an emphatic 5-3 win over the Czechs thanks to two more power-play goals, these from Dick Axelsson in the third period to break a 3-3 tie. Indeed, five of the team’s eight goals in the tournament came with the extra man.
Canada’s GM Sean Burke has had to cobble together a lineup like no GM in Canada’s long Olympic history. While most of the players are from the KHL, there are also participants from Switzerland, Sweden, the AHL, and NCAA. Coach Willie Desjardins had to be happiest with the final game when the team showed some offensive flair and legs that had been absent previously. But there is clearly work to be done before Canada can claim to be in the medal mix for PyeongChang.
The Czechs haven’t won a medal at the World Championship since 2012, the longest drought in the nearly hundred years of IIHF participation, and this result continues a worrisome trend. With its best group of players in the NHL, they are fighting to generate offence and play strong defence.
The Swiss are clearly in trouble without their NHLers. The incredible success of the nation’s program has now sent 13 players to the world’s top league, but without those stars, coach Patrick Fischer, like every other coach, has had to scramble. Losing all three games and scoring only six times doesn’t bode well for next February.
In all, teams learned a great deal about who they’ll have and what kind of team they’ll have. The news is good and bad, but time is running short. One can be sure the various general managers and coaches will confer in the coming days and do what they can to improve further. In the meantime, there are only two mini-tournaments left before Korea – the Channel One Cup in mid-December in Moscow and the Spengler Cup at the end of the year in Davos, Switzerland.
Russia second in Helsinki, first in Augsburg
Beside the Karjala Tournament there were several other events such as the traditional Deutschland Cup that again took place in Augsburg. Russia had a very busy weekend sending two men’s teams to international tournaments, the A squad to Helsinki and the B squad to Augsburg. And while the top team had to settle for second place at the Karjala Tournament, the Russian selection for the Deutschland Cup succeeded all the way winning all three games in Augsburg.
The team coached by Oleg Bratash beat host Germany 8-2 with eight different goal scorers, continued with a 5-2 win against the United States and then beat Slovakia 4-2 for first place thanks to a hat trick from Alexei Makeyev. The 25-year-old winger of Vityaz Podolsk, who has never played for any national team before, not only opened the scoring after three minutes, but when Russia was behind 2-1 he scored the important 2-2 and 3-2 goals for his team. Other top performers for the team were tournament scoring leader Artyom Fyodorov, who had one goal and five assists, top-scoring defenceman Mikhail Naumenkov (3+2) and goaltender Vasili Koshechkin, who had a 93.55 save percentage in two starts.
For Slovakia the first tournament with new head coach Craig Ramsay and GM Miroslav Satan ended in second place after wins against the U.S. (2-1) and Germany (3-0). The Germans got their only win on the last day, 5-1 against the United States thanks to efficient offence with a 4-0 lead midway the game.
For the U.S. men’s national team it was first and last tournament of the season prior to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang and provided head coach Tony Granato some insight about the potential players for the Olympics. The players were mainly professionals from European clubs. Seven each came from the Swedish SHL and the Swiss National League, six from the KHL, five from the German DEL and one from the Czech Extraliga. Former NHL forward Ryan Malone has an AHL contract with the Iowa Wild and long-time NHL player Brian Gionta is without a club after having captained the Buffalo Sabres during the last three seasons and the Montreal Canadiens before.
Denmark, Latvia & Poland win EIHC tournaments
Other countries participated in three tournaments that are part of the Euro Ice Hockey Challenge.
2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship host Denmark finished the event in Innsbruck on top before Scandinavian rival Norway, tournament host Austria and Olympic host Korea. After exchanging goals in the first two periods including a temporary 2-1 and 3-2 lead for the Koreans, the Danes eventually scored their goals during the second half of the game to win 7-4. Jesper Jensen and Morten Poulsen scored the power-play markers to beat second-placed Norway 2-0. And to secure the tournament win the Danes beat Austria 2-1 on the last day thanks to Jonas Rondbjerg’s game-winning goal with 12 seconds left in regulation time.
Norway finished in second place thanks to a 3-2 overtime win against Austria on the first day. The Norwegians came back from a one-goal deficit with third-period goals from Anders Bastiansen and Mathis Olimb but Thomas Hundertpfund tied the game at two with his power-play marker 2:31 before the end of regulation time. Mathis Olimb scored the overtime winner also on a man advantage.
Olympic host Korea, which recently earned promotion to the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, had to leave the tournament winless but had the tournament’s scoring leader as Kisung Kim notched five points (1+4).
At France’s new national ice hockey centre in Cergy-Pontoise near Paris, Latvia won a competitive tournament ahead of neighbouring country Belarus, Slovenia and host France.
The first day was already key for the tournament win when the Latvians beat Belarus 7-5. Five different players scored for Latvia including Maris Bicevskis and Rodrigo Abols with a pair of goals. The Latvians had a good start and established a 3-0 lead after 25 minutes of play but yet had to battle hard. Belarus came back with two goals in a span of 40 seconds in the middle frame before the Latvians added two more markers toward the end of the period for a 5-2 lead. The maroon-and-white team continued with victories against Slovenia (4-1) and France (3-1) to win the tournament.
Belarus came back after the loss to take second place with wins against France (3-2 OT) and Slovenia (5-3) and had the tournament’s scoring leader with Artur Gavrus (1+4). The Slovenes had their only win against France when Rok Ticar scored in overtime while the French lost all games including two in overtime.
The third EIHC tournament played in Budapest included four Division I countries. Hungary will host the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship Division I Group A in the same city but at a bigger venue, the multifunctional Laszlo Papp Sportarena.
Poland was already known as the tournament winner after two days beating host Hungary 4-1 and Japan 3-2. Krystian Dziubinski opened the scoring for Poland in the first period and when Jesse Dudas tied the game for Hungary 98 seconds into the second period, Alex Szczechura reacted with his goal 50 seconds later and Aron Chmielewski made it 3-1 before the intermission and before Marcin Kolusz added the fourth goal early in the third period. Szczechura, Pawel Dronia and Kacper Guzik scored for the Poles in the win against a Japanese team that fought back with Ryo Hashimoto’s two goals. With the tournament win secured, the Poles lost the last game to Italy 4-3.
Japan, which opposed to the other teams plays in the Division I Group B, experienced a good start under new head coach Yuji Iwamoto. Two goals within a span of 62 seconds during the middle frame from Makuru Furuhashi set up a 2-1 upset win against Italy on the opening day and after recovering from the tight loss to Poland, the Japanese beat host Hungary 4-3 in shootout on Sunday evening. Hungary dominated the game with 43-18 shots on goal and held the lead during most of the game until Hiromichi Terao tied the game at three with 3:09 left in regulation time. Kenta Takagi scored the shootout-winner for Japan, which thanks to the win finished in second place before Hungary and Italy.
23-year-old Furuhashi, who’s just in his second season with the Japanese men’s national team, was the tournament’s scoring leader with five points (3+2).
In the Lithuanian port city of Klaipeda a Latvian league selection won the Baltic Challenge Cup against the men’s national teams of Lithuania, Estonia and the U20 national team from Ukraine.
|Euro Hockey Tour - Karjala Tournament in Finland|
|8 Nov.||Orebro (SWE)||Sweden||Czech Rep.||5-3|
|8 Nov.||Biel (SUI)||Switzerland||Canada||2-3|
|9 Nov.||Helsinki (FIN)||Russia||Finland||2-3|
|10 Nov.||Helsinki (FIN)||Czech Rep.||Switzerland||3-2|
|10 Nov.||Helsinki (FIN)||Canada||Sweden||0-2|
|11 Nov.||Helsinki (FIN)||Switzerland||Russia||2-6|
|11 Nov.||Helsinki (FIN)||Finland||Sweden||3-1|
|12 Nov.||Helsinki (FIN)||Russia||Czech Rep.||5-2|
|12 Nov.||Helsinki (FIN)||Finland||Canada||4-3|
|Standings: 1. Finland 9, 2. Russia 6, 3. Sweden 6, 4. Canada 3, 5. Czech Rep. 3, 6. Switzerland 0.|
|Deutschland Cup in Germany|
|10 Nov.||Augsburg (GER)||USA||Slovakia||1-2|
|10 Nov.||Augsburg (GER)||Germany||Russia B||2-8|
|11 Nov.||Augsburg (GER)||Germany||Slovakia||0-3|
|11 Nov.||Augsburg (GER)||Russia B||USA||5-2|
|12 Nov.||Augsburg (GER)||Slovakia||Russia B||2-4|
|12 Nov.||Augsburg (GER)||Germany||USA||5-1|
|Standings: 1. Russia B 9, 2. Slovakia 6, 3. Germany 3, 4. USA 0.|
|Euro Ice Hockey Challenge in Austria|
|9 Nov.||Innsbruck (AUT)||Denmark||Korea||7-4|
|9 Nov.||Innsbruck (AUT)||Austria||Norway||2-3 OT|
|10 Nov.||Innsbruck (AUT)||Norway||Denmark||0-2|
|10 Nov.||Innsbruck (AUT)||Austria||Korea||8-3|
|11 Nov.||Innsbruck (AUT)||Korea||Norway||1-5|
|11 Nov.||Innsbruck (AUT)||Austria||Denmark||1-2|
|Standings: 1. Denmark 9, 2. Norway 5, 3. Austria 4, 5. Korea 0.|
|Euro Ice Hockey Challenge in France|
|9 Nov.||Cergy (FRA)||Belarus||Latvia||5-7|
|9 Nov.||Cergy (FRA)||France||Slovenia||2-3 OT|
|10 Nov.||Cergy (FRA)||Latvia||Slovenia||4-1|
|10 Nov.||Cergy (FRA)||Belarus||France||3-2 OT|
|11 Nov.||Cergy (FRA)||France||Latvia||1-3|
|11 Nov.||Cergy (FRA)||Slovenia||Belarus||3-5|
|Standings: 1. Latvia 9, 2. Belarus 5, 3. Slovenia 2, 4. France 2.|
|Euro Ice Hockey Challenge in Hungary|
|10 Nov.||Budapest (HUN)||Japan||Italy||2-1|
|10 Nov.||Budapest (HUN)||Hungary||Poland||1-4|
|11 Nov.||Budapest (HUN)||Poland||Japan||3-2|
|11 Nov.||Budapest (HUN)||Hungary||Italy||5-2|
|12 Nov.||Budapest (HUN)||Poland||Italy||3-4|
|12 Nov.||Budapest (HUN)||Japan||Hungary||4-3 SO|
|Standings: 1. Poland 6, 2. Japan 5, 3. Hungary 4, 4. Italy 3.|
|Baltic Challenge Cup in Lithuania|
|10 Nov.||Klaipeda (LTU)||Latvia B||Ukraine U20||9-2|
|10 Nov.||Klaipeda (LTU)||Lithuania||Estonia||7-2|
|11 Nov.||Klaipeda (LTU)||Estonia||Ukraine U20||3-1|
|11 Nov.||Klaipeda (LTU)||Lithuania||Latvia B||3-5|
|12 Nov.||Klaipeda (LTU)||Latvia B||Estonia||13-0|
|12 Nov.||Klaipeda (LTU)||Lithuania||Ukraine U20||3-2|
|Standings: 1. Latvia B 9, 2. Lithuania 6, 3. Estonia 3, 4. Ukraine U20 0.|