International Ice Hockey Federation

Oh my Godla!

Oh my Godla!

Slovak goalie shines in upset win over Finns

Published 27.12.2014 21:02 GMT-5 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Oh my Godla!
MONTREAL, CANADA - DECEMBER 27: Slovakia's Denis Godla #30 turns to cover the puck against Team Finland during preliminary round action at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/HHOF-IIHF Images)
The Finns are well-known for excellent goalies. On Saturday, they got beaten by one, as Slovakia’s Denis Godla made 37 saves in a surprising 2-1 victory.

Despite dominating the play, Finland went down to defeat for the second straight game. They dropped a 2-1 overtime decision to the U.S. in their opener.

The story was supposed to be the 2015 tournament debut of goalie Juuse Saros between the Finnish pipes. The 19-year-old HPK Hameenlinna product was last year’s all-star goalie and the hero of the 3-2 gold medal victory in overtime versus host Sweden. But he only faced 12 shots against Slovakia.

Godla, who was pulled after allowing five goals on 23 shots in an 8-0 opening loss to Canada, stole the headlines instead.

"We prepared ourselves for today’s game," said Godla. "It was a new beginning."

Peter Cehlarik and Matus Holenda scored for Slovakia, while captain Martin Reway added two assists. Mikko Rantanen tallied for Finland.

"We tried to throw away the game from yesterday and stay positive," said Cehlarik. "I thought we had a huge game, and hopefully it’s going to push us and we’ll play better and better now."

The Finnish power play has gone missing in action, scoreless now through two games. That’s a serious concern for coach Hannu Jortikka and his staff going forward.

"I think it was a tough game," said Jortikka. "The concentration maybe wasn’t 100 percent. We had a lot of scoring chances – empty net, post, whatever – but something was missing."

Both Reway and Finnish captain Artturi Lehkonen are Montreal Canadiens draft picks, which added to the intrigue of this Saturday afternoon confrontation at the Bell Centre.

Slovakia played a much better and more cohesive game than versus Canada, and it paid dividends. "We told ourselves we had to play easy, and play faster in the defensive zone," said Godla. "So we didn’t make any stupid mistakes."

The Finns had a great early chance when Sebastian Aho set up Jesse Puljujarvi on an odd-man rush, but the big 16-year-old prodigy rang it off the post.

Rantanen gave Finland a 1-0 lead at 7:01 with his second goal of the tournament, taking advantage of some open space to receive a Juuso Ikonen pass in the right faceoff circle and snap it past the Slovak goalie from the hash marks.

The Slovaks tied it up with a mid-period power play marker. Reway sent a hard pass to Cehlarik at the edge of the goal crease, and he deftly tipped it past Saros.

Finland had a golden opportunity to take the lead again with an extended two-man advantage late in the first, but Godla had other ideas.

Power play quarterback Julius Honka put one off Godla’s right post, but it bounced back underneath the goalie and he smothered it. Then Godla stoned Roope Hintz with a great glove save on the doorstep. He also foiled Puljujarvi with two left pad stops before the end of the period. Shots favoured Finland 16-4 after 20 minutes.

In the second period, the Slovaks went up 2-1 on their seventh shot at 6:03 when Reway fed Holenda at the centre point and the defenceman’s one-timer sailed past Saros’s glove into the top corner.

The Finns tried to pick up their physical intensity. Otto Rauhala (whose surname ironically means “a peaceful place” in Finnish) laid out Slovak forward David Soltes with a big shoulder-on-shoulder hit near the boards. Yet the blue-and-white team still couldn’t capitalize with two more second-period man advantages.

"We had a lot of chances on our power play, but we weren’t able to score," said Honka. "We need to get better."

Near the eight-minute mark of the third period, Godla made an amazing, reflex-driven kick save on Juuso Ikonen's redirect of a right point shot.

"He was awesome," Reway said of Godla. "From the first minute to the last, he was the best player on the ice."

Missing a glorious chance for a two-goal lead, Slovakia's Matej Paulovic put one off the crossbar with about seven minutes remaining. The Finns flubbed their chance for the equalizer when Puljujarvi hit the post in the dying minutes.

Jortikka called his time-out with 1:21 remaining and pulled Saros for the extra attacker with the faceoff in the Slovak end. It was to no avail.

"I think our whole team wasn’t ready to play hard enough today," said Honka.

Both teams have Sunday off before resuming action on Monday. The Slovaks will take on the Americans, while Finland faces Canada.

"It’s going to be similar like against Canada," Reway said about the Americans. "They have good players, always in the top three of the tournament. It’s kind of a big challenge for us to prove we are a better team than we were yesterday. We know it’s going to be a big, difficult game for us. If we play the way we did today, everything is possible."


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