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Finns beat Slovaks, earn semifinal date with Sweden

by Aaron Vickers
CALGARY -- Those that forget history are doomed to repeat it.

But those that dwell on it will miss the present.

After blowing a two-goal lead to Russia late in the third period of the World Junior Championship quarterfinal a year ago, Finland dispatched Slovakia 8-5 Monday night at the Scotiabank Saddledome earn themselves a date with Sweden in Tuesday's semifinal.

"This is a new year," captain Mikael Granlund said. "That's last year. We need to be ready for this tournament. We just tried to do things even better than last time."

They did.

Exploding for a four-goal second period, Finland built up a lead Slovakia couldn't overcome. Last year, Finland took a 3-1 lead into the third period against Russia – a game it lost 4-3 in overtime.

Granlund led the charge, scoring once and adding three assists, including a pair of markers off the stick of his brother, Marcus.

"The first period was tough for us," Mikael said. "When we scored those four goals, it became a more easy game. If we play how we can and that style we want to play, it's pretty hard to play against us."

Mikael's power-play marker pulled Finland ahead 5:42 into the period, before his cross-ice feed and subsequent one-timer from brother Markus 1:04 later gave Finland a 4-2 edge.

Mikael didn't stop there. Undressing defenseman Martin Marincin at the hashmarks, the elder Granlund was met by a poke-check from Slovakia starter Juraj Simboch. The puck went directly to Markus, who wired home his second for a Finnish three-goal edge. The goal spelled the end of Simboch in net.

Despite a new goaltender, the wave kept coming from Finland. After beating Matej Bene wide, 16-year-old Aleksander Barkov tucked the puck around Dominik Riecicky and into the back of the net at 11:45 to give Finland a 6-2 edge. Barkov's goal - his first of the tournament -- makes him the youngest player to ever score at the World Juniors, eclipsing Sidney Crosby's mark by three weeks.

Slovakia managed to get just one of those goals back. Marincin's shot from the point was deflected by Matus Chovan and onto the stick of Richard Mraz, who put it into a virtually-empty net at 13:36.

The Slovaks, who scored four goals in the third period against Switzerland in a come-from-behind-victory to put them in the quarterfinal, pulled to within 6-4 at 4:59. Able to walk in off the point, Martin Daloga beat Sami Aittokallio with a shot that went underneath the Finnish goalie's arm.

But when Matus Chovan was given a 5-minute major and a game misconduct with 8:41 remaining, it all but spelled the end of a second Slovakia comeback.

"It might be two minutes," said Tomas Jurco, who helped orchestrate Slovakia's comeback against the Swiss. "I'm not saying it was bad, but five minutes in the time of the game like that … it was kind of hard. I don't want to comment on the referee, it was his job but for us it was really huge and kind of slowed us done. I think if there wouldn't be a penalty, I think we were slowly coming back and you never know, we might score four goals in four minutes like we did [Saturday night]."

With ample power play time to work with, Finland struck twice.

Joonas Donskoi's shot from the point found the back of the net at 13:22. With a two-man advantage after a Peter Trska cross-checking penalty, Teemu Pulkkanen added his sixth of the tournament 47 seconds later to make it an 8-4 final.

Finland got the jump on Slovakia in the opening period, too.

Joel Armia opened the scoring just 4:29 into the game. Trying to feed a teammate on the other side of the crease, Armia's centering pass hit the stick of Slovak forward Matej Bene and bounced behind Simboch.

Simboch avenged Armia's goal just over a minute later. Darting into the Slovak zone, Armia let go a hard shot that Simboch got a glove on. The play headed up the ice and after a turnover by Finnish blueliner Jani Hakanpaa, Chovan buried a Richard Mraz rebound at 14:24 to make it 1-1.

The tie would hold for just eight seconds. Roope Hamalainen fired a shot that was bobbled by Simboch. Trying to clear the puck, a pair of Slovak defenders instead took out their goaltender, leaving the puck and an empty net for Hamalainen.

Slovakia would tie the game at 2-2 before the period was out. On the power play, Marek Tvrdon one-timed a Milos Bubela offering from the high slot that beat Aittokallio glove side with just 29.6 seconds remaining in the first.

Finland's attention will quickly turn to rival Sweden with a berth in the gold medal game on the line.

"Every game against Sweden is a big game, especially tomorrow," Pulkkanen said. "It's going to be a big game. "It's going to be a nice day tomorrow. I have been waiting for it."
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