Finns cruise past Czechs 4-0

Finland's goalie Sami Aittokallio (L) and teammate Jani Hakanpaa react after they defeated the...

Finland's goalie Sami Aittokallio (L) and teammate Jani Hakanpaa react after they defeated the Czech Republic at the 2012 IIHF U20 World Junior Hockey Championship in Edmonton, Alberta, December 31, 2011. (REUTERS/Todd Korol)

Gerry Moddejonge, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:57 PM ET

It was supposed to be a version of the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object, except with two puck-stopping forces.

A couple of streaking hot goalies met Saturday at Rexall Place in the battle for second place of the world junior hockey championships B pool.

And it went to Finland, who blanked the Czech Republic 4-0 in front of a crowd of 14,429.

“It means a lot. It's good for Finland, good for our team,” said Finnish head coach Raimo Helminen, whose squad finished the preliminary round 3-1. “If you win the games, then the confidence is growing and growing.”

Both sides took similar paths through the preliminary round, following up a decisive opening loss to Team Canada with a bounce-back victory over a heavily favoured U.S. squad — knocking the Americans down to the relegation round for the first time since 1999.

Petr Mrazek made 52 saves against the U.S., while Sami Aittokallio made 38.

But Saturday belonged all to Aittokallio, who manned the Finnish net to perfection with 36 saves on the way to the shut out.

“I think we played pretty well,” said Aittokallio, who was selected 107th overall by the Colorado Avalanche in 2010.

After the game, the Finns did their best impression of NFL quarterback Tim Tebow's pose, with an elbow on a knee.

While they saw it on TSN, Aittokallio said he didn't know the reason behind it.

“Don't ask me, ask (Jani) Hakanpaa, he knows,” Aittokallio said. “He knows everything about football and that stuff.”

But the celebration paled in comparison to the energetic actions Mrazek made during a 5-2 win over the U.S. on Friday.

“Yeah, I saw that and I thought he won some Olympic medal or something,” said Aittokallio, smiling. “Of course, when they won, it's nice to do something but I wouldn't do so much.”

But Aittokallio is hardly innocent when it comes to his win over the U.S.

He can be seen on the big screen at centre ice each game since, spliced into a segment known as the fist pump cam, which prompts fans to do just that.

“I saw the fist-pump cam the first game, and I thought if we won the next game, I would do that,” said Aittokallio, a self-admitted fan of the reality show Jersey Shore. "I wanted to be on that big screen, but now that I've seen myself on there, I don't want to see it again.

“I won't be doing the first pump anymore when I'm playing, only on the bench.”

Regardless of where he is doing it, Aittokallio's fist pumping earned him a fan in his fellow goaltender.

“Yeah, that was pretty funny,” Mrazek said. “I like it.”

What he didn't like so much was the eight penalties the Czech skaters took in Saturday's game, continuously interrupting any chance at their offence getting on the scoreboard after falling behind 2-0 in the opening period.

Finland struck first with a power-play goal by Alexander Ruuttu on a delayed feed from Mikael Granlund, who was parked at the side of the crease with all the time in the world to set up the play.

Teammate Miro Aaltonen followed up on a two-man rush, potting a goal off a pass from Aleksander Barkov.

Joonas Donskoi potted a rebound off a shot by Joel Armia in the second and Teemu Pulkkinen meandered around defenders on the way to sliding Finland's fourth goal past Mrazek in the third.

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca

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