Surprise State of Hockey legion! If you read today's game preview for tonight's tilt between YOUR Minnesota Wild and Ilves Tampere, you might have been under the impression that there would not be a live in-game commentary. I bet you wish I wasn't a liar. There is live in-game commentary because Wild PR lackey Ryan Stanzel pulled one out of his ear and secured a wireless password for me. He knows how important live in-game commentary is to you folks, and he came through for y'all.
I am coming to you live from the "press box" in Tampere Ice Stadium, and when I say press box, I mean basically a chair and a school desk. I'm not complaining. All I need is my laptop, wireless and two teams like the Wild and Ilves battling it out for Premiere supremacy.
First, this ice arena is sweet. It's small and old (oldest arena in all of Finland according to Mike Russo), but has a ton of character. The fans are right on top of the action and there are all kinds of cool nooks and crannies. This should be a fun one.
Native Finn Nik Backstrom, who has been the equivalent to a male character in Twilight in these parts, will be getting the start in goal today. I was lucky enough to be down on the bench area prior to warmups to snap a few photos, and Backy was dialed in. I hope these Ilves fans are ready for their countryman to turn on them and stop everything their home team throws at him.
As for the lineup, Guillaume Latendresse
and Martin Havlat are going to sit this one out because of some minor lower body issues. The Wild will skate eight defensemen today, and Casey Wellman and Cal Clutterbuck
will join Matt Cullen
on the second line.
If fashion is your thing, you've come to the right place. The Wild will go with the road whites for this one. Ilves will sport the home greens trimmed in black, gold and about 200 advertisements with an angry lynx-type animal on the chest.
After both anthems are completed, Mikko Koivu
and Michael Keranen exhange framed jerseys at center ice, and we are ready to go.And just as an FYI, this commentary page will not refresh automatically, so you're going to have to exercise tht index finger and keep hitting refresh. I know you've got it in you.
19:42 - The Wild comes out flying on the first shift. Andrew Brunette spins around with a shot that is stopped, but the rebound pops out to a net crashing Greg Zanon. He puts a bid right on goal, but Aittokallio makes a big stop again.
16:33 - In Minnesota, when there is a big scoring chance, the fans yell "Ooohhh!" In Tampere, the fans yell "Yeeeee!" in unison.
13:37 - Poor Antti. He can't catch a break even in his home country. He skates up the right side and puts a near perfect shot on goal, but rings it off the pipe.
13:23 - As I typed that last entry, Mittens puts another off the cross bar.12:50 - MIN 2 - ILV 1 - This one is in the net, but it's off the stick of Clutterbuck. Cullen does the dirty work down low and gets it to the bottom of the right circle. Once again, Clutter wastes no time getting a shot off and burying it for his second of the game. He loves this country!
7:39 - Kyle Brodziak
makes a nifty move to walk around an Ilves defender. He loses his footing a bit, but still gets a shot off.6:54 - MIN 3 - ILV 1 - Oh my heavens! What a goal by Marek Zidlickly! On the point, he works a give and go with Andrew Brunette. Bruno's pass isn't perfect, but Zid is able to reach is left skate back, kick it up to his forehand and then whistle a perfect wrist shot through traffic that Aittokallio never even sees. Quite a few fans love it, and not just the 50 fans who made the trip from Minnesota.
3:01 - MIN 4 - ILV 1 - The Finnish kids in front of me pretend like they are going to throw their brand new Wild hats onto the ice after Clutter buries his third of the game. He swoops into the slot, picks up a loose puck and buries it for his first-ever hat trick, which of course will not count.
2:26 - MIN 5 - ILV 1 - The Wild is going to leave Tampere with its first win of the preseason. John Madden's pass to the slot gets tangled in some skates, but Kobasew is right there to whack at it, and he finds a tiny opening under Aittokallio for the goal.
0:00 - That's going to do it! I'm out of battery so I will sign off, but will be in the Lighthouse later tonight.
17:24 - MIN 1 - ILV 1 - Ilves ties this thing up after big defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka steals a Wild clearing attempt. He takes a couple of long strides through traffic and snaps off a quick shot. The puck may have hit something on its way, but either way, it gets past Backstrom.
15:04 - Not many people, including the refs, see Korhonen bump up against Koivu, and as he's skating away. giving a shot to the Wild captains mouth with the butt end of his stick. Koivu sends an icy glare at him on the way to the bench, and you can bet he won't soon forget it.
10:20 - Things are getting unfriendly down there. Nils Backstrom gets a little too agressive in Nik Backstrom's crease as he tries to punch in a loose puck. Burns takes exception and those two tangle for a bit before getting broken up by the zebras. Both will sit in the box for two minutes.
8:52 - Finland, meet Mr. Clutterbuck. As Jokipakka tries to carry the puck out of his own zone, Clutter destroys him against the glass and then steals the puck. He sends a cross rink feed to John Madden whose wrister is denied.
1:01 - Chuck Kobasew finds Eric Nystrom in the slot with a great pass to the slot. Nystrom gets a quick shot off and Aittokallio reacts quickly with a gorgeous glove save - his best of the night.Period 1
20:00 - Todd Richards offeres a nice gesture for the fans, starting Backstrom and the two Finnish forwards, which the crowd appreciates.
15:29 - Ville Korhonen gets loose at the top of the left circle and lets off a quick low wrist shot. Backstrom is all over it with the glove and comes up with his first big stop of the exhibition.
12:32 - Matt Cullen
makes a pretty play deep in the Ilves zone, centering a quick pass to the front where Wellman tips it just wide of the goal and goaltender Sami Aittokallio.11:54 MIN 1 - ILV 0 - Boom! The Wild strikes first as Cullen's line fires away again. Cullen gets the puck on the left boards and drops a pass back to Clutterbuck at the top of the left circle. Without wasting any time, he snaps a rocket pas Aittokallio. Scouts say you want to get this Tampere crowd out of the game early, and Clutts does just that.
9:03 - Oh my! Backstrom is enjoying the first period in his home country. With Ilves on a power play, a shot from the point hits traffic and bounces right to Jaakko Pellinen in the slot. He looks to have an easy goal, but Backs lunges to his left to snare it with a beautiful glove save. Pellinen looks to the ceiling in disbelief.
6:18 - On a Wild power play, Marek Zidlicky sends a nice pass down to the side of the net for Koivu. He tries to put a redirection on it, but Aittokallio sticks with it nicely to make the stop with his leg pillows covered in advertisements.
3:33 - Brent Burns has been taking a lot of offensive chances in this game. On the power play, he streaks up the left side and cuts to the goal, lifting a quick shot into the cehst of Aittokallio. Antti Miettinen tries to poke home the rebound but can't break the dam.
0:00 - A very entertaining opening period comes to a close with the Wild enjoying a nice one-goal cushion. There must be a vacuum outside because every single person is rushing to the exits for intermission.