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Slovakia upsets defending champion Finland at WJC

by Arpon Basu

MONTREAL -- Slovakia goaltender Denis Godla made headlines Saturday for the right reasons.

One day after being pulled from an 8-0 loss to Canada, Godla was the central figure in Slovakia's 2-1 upset of defending champion Finland in Group A play at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship at Bell Centre.

Godla made 37 saves and captain Martin Reway (Montreal Canadiens) set up goals by Peter Chlarik (Boston Bruins) and Matus Holenda for Slovakia (1-0-0-1, three points) to put Finland in a difficult spot in the group standings.

It was Slovakia's first win against a traditional hockey power at this tournament since a 3-2 overtime victory in the preliminary round of the 2009 championship held in Ottawa.

"We proved to ourselves that we can win these games," Reway said. "It's big for us, but it doesn't mean we're going to go far in the tournament. We have to keep going and play every game like this."

The story of the game was Godla, who was especially strong in the first period with 15 saves, several of them with a very high degree of difficulty attached.

"This is the highlight of my career so far," said Godla, whose team faces the United States on Monday.

Godla had 25 saves just after the midway point of the game, but Slovakia tightened up from that point and made it more difficult for Finland to get quality opportunities. When Finland was able to get good looks, its shooters hit goal posts and missed nets.

"[Godla] played good, but I think more problem was our scoring," Finland coach Hannu Jortikka said. "We had so many empty nets. Maybe concentration was not so high, which you need at this level. Every game is very tough at this level."

Finland (0-0-1-1) has one point in the standings from a 2-1 shootout loss to the United States on Friday, with games against Canada on Monday and Germany on Wednesday remaining.

Jortikka mentioned his top line of captain Artturi Lehkonen (Montreal Canadiens), Kasperi Kapanen (Pittsburgh Penguins) and Aleksi Mustonen by name in noting their need to lead the Finland attack.

"Tell me about it," Lehkonen said when asked if frustration is setting in. "We're the first line, we've been playing power play the first two games and we haven't scored. It's frustrating, but we just maybe need to play a little more simple, get in front of the net, screen the goalie and get shots from the blue line so we can shove it in."

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