Finland against Vitali Koval 1-0

Finland against Vitali Koval 1-0

04 May 2012 | Mika Leino

Vitali Koval of Belarus showed some dazzling goaltending against the host country Finland. He allowed only one goal but this time it was enough for the "Lions" as they took an opening win with 1-0.


Finland offered to the home crowd very good playing and nice combinations in the first period. Every line was able to put the pressure on Vitaly Kovals goalmouth and scoring chances came one after another. Koval made half a dozen "save of the months" and kept the goal figures even. Maybe the best Finnish line during the first 20 minutes was the hard working line of HV-71's Jesse Joensuu, Niko Kapanen of Kazan and a recent KHL champion from Dynamo Moscow Leo Komarov. Finland outshot Belarus in the first period with 13-2 but only defender Janne Niskala managed to score with a nice wristshot high on Koval's glove side.

And as it usually happens in an icehockey game; when a dominating team can't score its game becomes difficult. The longer the game went on the better Belarus got into the game. Team coached by a Finn Kari Heikkilä showed from time to time very speedy and skillfull game and was able to create several serious scoring chances but also Finnish goalie Kari Lehtonen was very good. Shots on goal were almost even in the second period (13-12 for Finland).

In the third period Belarus had its chances when they had twice a power play, but this time without success. Finnish center Jarkko Immonen said that his team managed pretty well in their game syste;, keeping pressure and skating a lot. Only the scoring was missing. Unfortunately that is the most important thing.

Belarus' only NHL player Toronto Maple Leaf Mihail Grabovski said obvious things: "Both goalies played well and we couldn't score on our power play. We should have shot more and go for rebounds."

Finland's play was almost at its best in the first period. Very smooth skating, nice passing and many scoring chances. When they still get their scoring more efficient it might be a long tournament for the hosts. Also Belarus left a very good impression of their game. With this kind of play they are a serious candidate even for the quarterfinals. For the Finnish team it was nevertheless an important opening win and like Finnish youngster Mikael Granlund said after the game "here we go!"

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