Monday, September 06, 2004

Too close for their liking

For the Finns and their fans the last few minutes couldn’t end fast enough. In a surprisingly tight game, Finland and Germany went down to the wire in the first elimination quarter final. As the Germans laid on a surprise for Finland, keeping them anxious throughout the game and coming within a whisker of staging one of the better upsets of International Hockey.

Mikko Eloranta will be the name remembered for saving the Finns from possible disaster as he scored with 3:22 to go to give Finland the 2-1 win, sending them on to the semi-finals in North America. Eloranta scored on a tip in from a Kimmo Timonen shot which eluded the rock solid Olaf Kolzig.

Niklas Hagman opened the scoring for the Finns midway through the second period on the power play. But the Germans never seemed to be out of this one, Germany came back to tie the game and send Finnish stomachs to sinking with a Marco Sturm wrist shot at 13:22 of the third, ending Miikka Kiprusoff’s bid for a third shut out in the tournament. With the tying goal the German team found even more life and began to press into the Finnish zone, getting a few more chances to upset the Finns. The winless Germans, making Finland dig deep and earn the victory with a final burst of hard work.

Finland will now await the winner of Tuesday’s USA/Russia game to find out who they will match up against in the semi finals. For Germany the tournament is now over, without a win the Germans were from the beginning cast as mere roadkill on the way to the championship round, but in the last few games they put up a pretty good fight. They are still a few players away from being a threat to the Hockey Powers and certainly don’t play anything resembling firewagon hockey, but give them a quality second line and they’ll continue to scare the likes of the Finns and the Swedes for years to come.

As for the Finns while they take their success over to North America, they need to do some in house counseling, as things are not particularly harmonious on Team Suomi. Islanders defenseman Janne Niinima pulled himself out of the tournament after a dispute with Finnish head coach Raimo Summanen. No details leaked out of the Finn camp, but Niinima’s departure leaves the Finns with only seven defencemen for the semi final on Friday night.

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