International Ice Hockey Federation

Finland starts strong

Finland starts strong

Despite bad loss, French make history

Published 08.01.2016 15:52 GMT-5 | Author Andrew Podnieks
Finland starts strong
ST. CATHARINES, CANADA - JANUARY 08: Finland's Minni Lehtopelto #7 celebrates her goal with teammates during preliminary round action against Team France at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 Women's World Championship. (Photo by Francois Laplante/HHOF-IIHF Images)
The Finns started their 2016 U18 Women’s World Championship with an impressive 11-1 win over France this afternoon at the Meridian Centre in St. Catharines.

The losers could be forgiven for a one-sided score, however. It was, after all, their first ever game at the top level, having played since 2009 in Division I.

The Finns got goals from eight players in a game marked by their superior skating and puck skills. Jenniina Nylund led the way with two goals and three assists while captain Sara Sakkinen had four assists.

"We played France in October, and although we won, we knew that would mean nothing," Sakkinen said. "We wanted to play as a team and play at our best because you never know."

Although captain Chloe Aurard got the game’s first shot off the opening faceoff for France, the Finns had the next 16 in the period. Chloe’s twin sister, goaltender Anais, made a big save off a breakaway form Nylund midway through the period to keep the game scoreless, but Linnea Melotindos opened the scoring at 13:41 tipping a backhand past Aurard to the far side.

Three and a half minutes later, Minni Lehtopelto made it 2-0 from a slapshot in the high slot, and this proved to be all the scoring the Finns required.

"Even though this was our first game," Chloe Aurard noted, "it’s not fun for us. We have to forget this game and move forward. We knew they were a strong game, but we had nothing to lose. We could have done better today, but we can’t change the result."

The Finns put the game well out of reach with five more goals in the second. Anais Aurard was France’s only salvation in the crease, making several big saves and having little chance on the pucks that beat her.

Finland added two quick goals in the third to make it 9-0, but exactly six minutes into the final period Chloe Aurard scored France's first goal. She made a nice play coming off the side into the slot and beating Tiia Pajarinen with a shot under the blocker.

Camilla Reinikainen made it 10-1 with a breakaway goal less than two minutes later, and the team added a late power-play goal to finish the scoring.

"We have good team spirit in the room and on the ice together," Sakkinen added. "We skate well and have good goaltending. We trust each other."

The Finns have won only one medal at the WW18, that a bronze in 2011, but served notice they have an offensively-talented team after their performance today.

Both Group B teams are back in action tomorrow, the Finns playing Switzerland and France playing Sweden.


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