Finland recovered from Boxing Day beating
WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency
|Finland forward Teemu Pulkkinen can't get past Denmark goaltender Sebastian Feuk during a World Junior Hockey Championship in Edmonton, Alta., Dec. 30, 2011. (CODIE McLACHLAN/QMI Agency)
CALGARY - It was a Boxing Day blowout.
The bad memories, though, had about the same shelf-life as a door-crasher special.
Almost immediately after the final buzzer sounded to end an 8-1 beating from Team Canada in their tournament opener, Finland's world junior representatives had forgotten all about it.
"That's the best way to go," said Finnish forward Teemu Pulkkinen. "This is a short tournament and you have to be ready for the next games. If you lose one game, it doesn't matter."
It does now.
Team Finland will face off against Slovakia in Monday's world junior quarterfinal at the Saddledome, with the winner advancing to a semifinal showdown with Sweden. Russia and the Czech Republic will go toe-to-toe in the other quarterfinal, with Canada awaiting the survivor.
The Finns scored a 3-0 shutout victory over the Slovaks in a pre-tournament tilt at WinSport Canada Athletic & Ice Complex, and head coach Raimo Helminen told reporters afterward a meeting with the host nation was the "best place to start" for his team.
Helminen probably didn't feel that way after watching the Canadians score six unanswered goals to turn it into a rout, but the Finns didn't let it spoil their trip.
"It was a big wakeup call," said assistant coach Mikko Haapakoski. "We have competitive players, and they really wanted to bounce back and show what they're able to do on the ice."
They rebounded with a 4-1 upset victory over the U.S., then a 10-1 drubbing of Team Denmark. On New Year's Eve, they registered a 4-0 shutout against the Czech Republic to secure second spot in the Group B standings.
"We have the same team. Nothing changed," Pulkkinen said. "That was just one game and when the game was over, we decided to move on."
As believers in short-term amnesia (Calgary Flames netminder and fellow Finn Miikka Kiprusoff has perfected the same policy), Pulkkinen and his teammates aren't putting much stock in their exhibition success against Slovakia, either.
The Slovaks didn't generate much offence in that game, but they're a physical group and showed some impressive jam with a stirring comeback in their roundrobin finale against Team Switzerland, scoring four times in the third period to erase a two-goal deficit and avoid a trip to the relegation bracket.
They'll be aiming to avenge their exhibition loss and keep their hopes alive for Slovakia's first medal at the world juniors since a bronze in 1999.
For the Finns, revenge will have to wait. That doesn't necessarily mean it's not on their mind.
"After the first game, we were talking with some of the players that it would be amazing to play against Canada again in this tournament, have a rematch," Pulkkinen said. "We'll see what happens. That would be nice."
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