TOLVANEN SCORES OT WINNER, FINNS BEAT CZECHS IN WILD U17 EXHIBITION
JASON LA ROSE
FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Eeli Tolvanen ended a wild 63 minutes of hockey with the overtime winner, giving Finland an 8-7 win over the Czech Republic on Friday night in pre-tournament action ahead of the 2015 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.
Tolvanen took a pass from Santeri Hartikainen and found his way behind the Czech defence before beating goaltender Jakub Skarek under the blocker on the game’s 80th and final shot.
The two teams combined for six goals in each of the first two periods, and the Czechs erased the game’s only two-goal advantage in the third period to force the extra frame.
Tolvanen’s winner capped a four-point performance, Hartikainen added two goals and two assists, and Sami Moilanen scored twice and added a helper as the Finns earned the victory.
Martin Kaut (two goals, one assist) and Martin Necas (one goal, two assists) led the Czechs, who held leads of 1-0, 3-2, 4-3 and 5-4, but needed a third-period comeback to get the game to overtime.
Necas got the scoring started at 8:15, finishing a pretty give-and-go with Kaus, but Hartakainen answered less than three minutes later, stepping into the slot and beating Czech netminder Tomas Vomacka.
Urho Vaakananinen gave the Finns their first lead at 15:30 when his point shot found its way up and over Vomacka, but Filip Zadina tied the game less than two minutes after that.
A busy opening period ended with two goals 31 seconds apart, from Kaut and Finnish forward Aleksi Heponiemi, to send the game to the first intermission all even at 3-3.
The back-and-forth contest continued in the second; twice the Czechs took the lead, from Ondrej Machala at 1:45 and Kaut at 7:23, but twice the Finns answered, from Moilanen at 6:56 and Hartikainen at 12:58, before Kristian Vesalainen and Moilanen gave Finland the first two-goal advantage late in the middle frame.
Marek Skvrne got the Czech comeback started just 2:10 into the third, and Ostap Safin made it 7-7 with just 1:57 to go, treating the fans at North Peace Arena to free hockey.
Both teams split the goaltending duties, and all four netminders were busy; Lassi Lehtinen stopped 16 of 21 in the Finnish goal before giving way to Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, who turned away 16 of 18 to record the win.
For the Czechs, Skarek was 11-for-15 after taking over for Vomacka, who made 22 saves on 26 shots.
Finland opens the tournament Sunday night against Canada Red in Fort St. John (7:30 p.m. MT), while the Czechs meet the United States in their Sunday curtain-raiser in Dawson Creek (7:30 p.m. MT).