SLAM!Sports
February 20, 2006
Finns no longer miss Kiprusoff
By ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

TURIN, Italy -- Asked if he saw any similarities between Antero Niittymaki and another Finnish netminder who recently carried the Calgary Flames to the Stanley Cup final, Ville Nieminen's eyes lit up.

"Yeah, they are both from the same hometown," deadpanned the former Flames agitator, full of fond memories of Miikka Kiprusoff.

Always striving to go against the grain, Nieminen may be the only one who doesn't see the on-ice resemblance between the man who is spearheading Finland's perfect start here and the man who instead opted to rest his hips in Hawaii.

"Niittymaki has been great. Obviously, when some guys don't come, it gives an opportunity for some others to show up and show how good they are," said Teemu Selanne, who scored the winner in Finland's 2-0 win over Canada yesterday.

"That's exactly what happened. He looks like Kiprusoff -- he is so calm, confident. It's an awesome feeling when the goalie gives you a chance to win every night."

Well, every night so far of this Olympic tourney anyway.

The Finns upped their record to 4-0 with a shocker over Canada that has everybody talking about Canada's 120-minute goal drought.

However, the owners of a 17-2 goal ratio gave credit to the young Philadelphia Flyers starter who was supposed to be Team Finland's downfall.

"The press has been saying that without Kipper, we had no chance," said forward Olli Jokinen. "I have to give Niittymaki credit. He's been real calm."

Untested in the first period while Roberto Luongo stopped 12 of 14 shots, Niittymaki made a dazzler on Rick Nash midway through the second when the Canadian sniper tried to go five-hole as he skated in alone.

"It's more a team game than me," said the 25-year-old Niittymaki, who credited his club's success to the very thing that has caused Canada's problems so far.

"We're playing well as a team -- five guys playing defence and offence."

Rated somewhere between third and fifth on Finland's Olympic depth chart heading into the season, Niittymaki raised eyebrows in Helsinki when he took over the starting gig in Philly from Robert Esche. Yet, it wasn't until Kiprusoff begged off with an alleged hip ailment and Atlanta's young hotshot Kari Lehtonen took a pass that Niittymaki was asked if his schedule was clear.

"It happens in any sport and on any team -- somebody gets injured or something else," Niittymaki said.

"I don't really think about it. I'm just happy to be here."


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