Eric Haula scored a pair of goals and goalies Joni Ortio and Sami Aittokallio combined for 17 saves when Finland soared to a 6-0 victory over undermanned Slovakia on Friday in the fourth and final game for both countries in preliminary round action of the 2011 IIHF World Junior Championship.
Finland's third straight victory catapulted them into first place, 2 points ahead of the U.S. National Junior Team, in the Group A standings for the time being. The puck is now in Team USA's end -- a victory over Switzerland (8 p.m. ET, NHLN-US) later today will solidify an automatic bye into the tournament semifinals slated for Monday at HSBC Arena.
Finland opened a 3-0 lead in the first period as Miikka Salomaki connected just 1:40 into the game before a pair of power-play goals by Jyrki Jokipakka and Haula extended the advantage. Joonas Donskoi scored a power-play goal of his own 6:45 into the second before Haula scored a shorthanded goal just 1:55 later. Valtteri Virkkunen also struck to close out the second-period barrage.
Slovakia, forced to play without the services of suspended defensemen Peter Hrasko and Martin Marincin, appeared disinterested and beaten from the early part of the contest.
Teemu Pulkkinen chipped in with two assists for Finland, which finished with a 43-17 shot advantage. Ortio made 10 saves in two periods of play before Aittokallio turned aside seven shots in 20 minutes of work in the third.