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Finns beat Czechs for third straight win

by Mike G. Morreale /
EDMONTON -- The Finnish National Junior Team has visions of making up for last year's sixth-place showing at the 2012 IIHF World Junior Championship.

The Finns won their third straight game in the Group B preliminary-round pool, beating the Czech Republic 4-0 at Rexall Place on Saturday to finish second in the five-team field.
"It means a lot and it's good for Finland, good for our team and the boys," Finnish coach Raimo Helminen said. "It's always good to win because the confidence grows and grows and I hope that keeps going."
It's actually familiar territory for the blue and white.

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After placing second in Group A last year, the Finns lost in the quarterfinals and then dropped a 3-2 shootout decision to Switzerland in the fifth-place game to finish sixth -- its worst finish in six years.
Finnish goalie and Colorado Avalanche prospect Sami Aittokallio, who was the hero in Wednesday's 4-1 victory against Team USA with 38 saves, turned aside 36 shots in regarding his second win in as many starts.
"The goalie is important; that's the one big part, that your goalie is playing good," Helminen said. "Let's see the next game." When asked who his starter would be to open medal-round play on Monday, Helminen wouldn't admit whether Aittokallio or Christopher Gibson would get the nod.
"I'll tell you in two days," Helminen said.
The victory enabled Finland, which dropped an 8-1 decision to Canada on Monday, to secure the second seed in Group B. Canada, which will play the U.S. later on Saturday, has already clinched the top seed and an automatic bye into the semifinals.
Teemu Pulkkinen, a 2010 fourth-round draft choice (No. 111) of the Detroit Red Wings, scored his team-leading fifth goal of the tournament 3:37 into the third to give the Finns a 4-0 advantage. Pulkkinen, a 5-foot-10, 198-pound wing, scored four consecutive third-period goals on Friday in a 10-1 victory against Denmark.
"Today was big win for us," Pulkkinen said. "I think we will get easier team in the quarters, so it was a big win for us and we played pretty good. We made some mistakes, but the Czech couldn't score and we did when we had a chance."
Throughout the tournament, Pulkkinen has worked a line with Markus and Mikael Granlund, who was named Finland's player of the game. The trio hasn't disappointed Helminen.
"They have been together for a long time; Mikael and Teemu played before and the young Granlund (Markus) is the new guy on the line," Helminen said. "They work well together."
It's become apparent that the line creates problems for opposing defenses. They have accrued six goals and 19 points in four games.
"I think we have created chances and that's the key … creating chances," Mikael Granlund said. "All the games, we just need to focus on scoring and wins."
Finland opened a 3-0 lead at 14:17 of the first when Florida Panthers prospect Joonas Donskoi connected off assists from Joel Armia and Miikka Salomaki.
The Finns opened a 2-0 lead on a seemingly sluggish Czech squad in the first period on goals by Alexander Ruuttu and Miro Aaltonen. Ruuttu's goal came off a splendid across-the-crease look from Mikael Granlund with his team on the power-play at 11:42. Aaltonen's goal at 16:19 came on a wrist shot from between the circles that nicked a Czech defender's stick and went past goaltender Petr Mrazek.
The Czechs were coming off an emotional 5-2 victory against the U.S. less than 24 hours earlier -- a game in which Mrazek stopped 52 shots. It also didn't help that they were without standout defenseman David Musil, who was a surprise scratch. According to Czech assistant coach Jiri Fischer, Musil was suffering from dizziness.
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter: @mike_morreale
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