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Special teams played big part in Finland's demise

by Mike G. Morreale /

TORONTO -- The opportunity was certainly there for Finland to once again play the role of spoiler against rival Sweden at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship.

It was just last year when Finland denied the host country a chance at winning a gold medal on their home soil in Malmo, Sweden, following a dramatic 3-2 victory in overtime.

This year would not be so special for Finland as special teams proved to be the demise of the defending WJC champion in a 6-3 loss in the quarterfinals of the medal round at Air Canada Centre on Friday.

The Finns not only failed to score on five power-play chances against Sweden, but allowed three power-play goals on five opportunities. Finland failed to score a goal on 21 power-play opportunities in the tournament to rank last out of 10 teams. It also allowed a tournament-high 11 power-play goals by the opposition.

"The power play killed us, yes," Finland defenseman Mika Ilvonen said. "We switched the power-play lineups there a couple of times. I don't think it got into our head, but it was just bad executing. We had chances today, hit the post a couple of times."

The Finns twice gave the Swedes a 5-on-3 power-play advantage in the game and paid the price both times.

"Zero goals; that [stinks]," Finland forward Mikko Rantanen (2015 draft eligible) said. "You can't win this tournament if you don't score on the power play and we didn't and we lost the game. Maybe we were passing too much because you have to shoot more if you want to score on the power play. If you want to win big games, you have to execute, and we didn't do that."

Finland forward Kasperi Kapanen (Pittsburgh Penguins) agreed that the lack of production on the power play was a big difference in the tournament. Finland needed to win its last game of the preliminary round against Germany to qualify for the medal round.

"If I knew what the real problem was on the power play, I'd tell everyone," Kapanen said. "You have to get shots on net. You can't shoot it on the first guy blocking the shot and shoot it wide because it goes out the zone. But it's stupid to talk about this now; the bottom line is we should have scored on the power play and didn't."

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