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Finland better against Americans, but not good enough

Photos by Rob Wallator-Hockey Canada

USA 6 Finland 2

Finland looked like a different team Tuesday than the version that was drubbed 7-2 by Russia in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup under-18 tournament.

That was the good news for the Finns. The bad news is that the improved performance wasn’t near good enough to upend a powerful USA squad, which prevailed 6-2 at the Red Deer Servus Arena to secure a semifinal berth in the eight-team tournament.

While the Americans improved to 2-0 with one preliminary contest remaining — Wednesday at 7 p.m. versus the 2-0 Russians — the Finns fell to 0-2.

One day after being pelted with 60 shots by the Russians, netminder Roope Taponen made 33 saves for Finland, including several of the dazzling variety.

“He has been working really hard,” said Finland head coach Mika Marttila. “We have made too many mistakes in defending, so it has not been his fault, these two losses to Russia and against the USA.”

The Finns actually carried the play early but it was the Americans who struck first with Spokane Chiefs forward Luke Toporowski beating Taponen midway through the opening period.

Toporowski scored twice for the winners, his second sailing into an empty net late in the contest.

“His speed and energy was huge for us in a game like this,” said USA head coach Cory Laylin. “We run a lot of pressure and he pushed the ‘D’ back.

“The goal he scored early was an energy goal and that’s what we needed to help turn the momentum. He was a huge key in our victory tonight.”

Sam Colangelo gave the USA a 2-0 lead before Aku Raty responded for Finland late in the first period.

Arthur Kaliyev sniped the eventual winning marker 90 seconds into the middle frame.

“Arthur’s a great shooter. When that puck gets on his stick he’s got one of the best releases in the country,” said Laylin. “For us it’s just important to get him the puck and let him do his thing.”

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Arton Lundell pulled Finland to within a single goal in the second period, but the Americans pulled away in the third with three unanswered tallies off the sticks of John Farinacci, Jackson Jutting and Toporowski.

Winning goalie Dustin Wolf of the Everett Silvertips turned aside 29 shots.

Prior to the Russia-USA Pool B first-place showdown, Finland will face 0-2 Czech Republic at 3 p.m. at the Servus Arena.

“Russia scored seven goals and USA six goals. That’s the key — we can’t allow so many goals tomorrow,” said Marttila.

In Tuesday’s afternoon contest, Russia got goals from Yegor Chinakhov, Yaroslav Likhachyov and Vasili Podkolzin in a 3-0 victory over the Czechs.

Yaroslav Askarov turned in a 35-save shutout performance while Czech netminder Nick Malik made 23 stops.

Meanwhile, Canada and Sweden clinched semifinal berths in Pool A at Edmonton’s Rogers Place.

The Canadians doubled Slovakia 4-2 Tuesday night as Alexis Lafreniere, Dylan Holloway, Graeme Clark and Josh Williams scored. Taylor Gauthier made 17 saves for 2-0 Canada.

Slovak stopper David Borak held his team in the game with 54 saves. Andrej Golian and Artur Turansky scored for 0-2 Slovakia.

Earlier in the day, Sweden got a pair of third-period markers from Lucas Raymond in a 5-0 defeat of Switzerland.

Also scoring for the 2-0 Swedes were Philip Broberg, Ludvig Hedstrom and Victor Soderstrom. 

Thibault Fatton turned aside 31 shots for the 0-2 Swiss.

Switzerland and Slovakia will clash at 3 p.m. today in Edmonton and Canada and Sweden will meet in a Pool A first-place game at 7 p.m.

The semifinals, set for Friday, and Saturday’s bronze and gold medals games will be played at Rogers Place.

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