Mikael Granlund great hero in the tournament debut – sprinkled the winning goal against Latvia with three minutes left

It was a sweaty night for Finland in the team’s second World Cup match. A tough Latvia offered robust resistance and was close to taking the match to extra time.

Mikael Granlund became a great hero when he scored the 2-1 victory goal with less than three minutes left. Granlund, who played in the NHL playoffs with Nashville, has just arrived in Tampere and it was only clear on match day that he will play against Latvia.

After the match, head coach Jukka Jalonen breathed a sigh of relief in CMore’s interview.

– It was a tough match. Latvia was exactly as good as we thought. This is how it has looked against Latvia in many tournaments, says Jalonen.

– Some things worked well, others did not. We should score more goals. It is the third period that decides and there we were a goal better.

Jukka Jalonen guides the team in the match against Latvia.

Caption
Finland’s head coach Jukka Jalonen was pleased with Mikael Granlund’s contribution.

Photo: Pasi Mennander / Finnish Ice Hockey Association

Finland plays in a tough group with Sweden, the Czech Republic and the USA as the main opponents. Jalonen was pleased that it was three points against Latvia.

– If we had lost today, it is not known if we would have made it to the quarterfinals.

Tough introduction

At least the Lion supporters breathed optimism after the stable 5-0 victory against Norway in the premiere. Latvia, in turn, started their World Cup pale by losing 1-4 to the United States.

Even in the beginning, a defensively robust Latvia still showed that Finland will not get anything for free.

Rudolf Balcers gives Latvia the lead with 1-0.

Caption
Rudolf Balcers has just given Latvia the lead with 1-0.

Photo: Tomi Hänninen

San Jose striker Rudolf Balcers silenced the Tampere arena after nine minutes had been played. Latvia countered and Balcers had to sprinkle the puck into Finland’s goal from close range. Unacceptable for Harri Säteri in Finland’s cage.

In the first period, Finland got only two shots on Elvis Merzlikins in Latvia’s goal and Mikael Granlund, who made his tournament debut, was thoughtful in CMore’s break interview.

– We must get more pucks on goal. We will improve our game in the second period, said the recent NHL addition.

Sakari Manninen equalizes to 1-1.

Caption
Sakari Manninen (outside picture) showed proof of his putting skills when he equalized to 1-1.

Photo: Tomi Hänninen

Finland managed to equalize to 1-1 shortly after the match came halfway. Granlund took shots in powerplay and the puck bounced via a Latvian player and the edge luckily to Sakari Manninen who scored the goal from no angle at all.

Mikko Lehtonen gave credit to the opponents in the second period break’s TV interview.

– They defend themselves with beaks and claws. These are strong and big guys we have to deal with.

Granlund hero

The match was approaching extra time when Finland had the opportunity to play powerplay. Finland needed only 18 seconds to score – Mikael Granlund took a shot that found the net and the clock stopped at 57.08.

Mikael Granlund celebrates the victory goal.

Caption
Mikael Granlund was noted for 1 + 1 against Latvia.

Photo: Petri Saarelainen / AOP

Jukka Jalonen was pleased.

– Mickey is world class. It was a really good shot and Jere Sallinen hid well, says Jalonen to CMore.

In the end, Latvia chased the equalizer without a goalkeeper but failed to score.

Jalonen had made two changes to the line-up after the premiere against Norway on Friday.

Mikael Granlund took Jere Innala’s place as left forward in the first chain, while Harri Säteri guarded the goal at the expense of Jussi Olkinuora.

Finnish team

Attack chains
Mikael Granlund – Sakari Manninen – Teemu Hartikainen
Harri Pesonen – Valtteri Filppula – Joel Armia
Toni Rajala – Juho Lammikko – Jere Sallinen
Saku Mäenalanen – Hannes Björninen – Marko Anttila
Jere Innala

Backpar
Mikko Lehtonen – Juuso Hietanen
Mikael Seppälä – Atte Ohtamaa
Niklas Friman – Sami Vatanen
Wanted Pokka

Goalkeepers
Harri Manor
(Jussi Olkinuora)

Powerplay:
PP1: Vatanen, Armia, Filppula, Rajala, Pesonen
PP2: Lehtonen, Sallinen, Granlund, Hartikainen, Manninen

Finland’s tournament continues on Monday at 20.20 when the USA faces the opposition.

Results:

Latvia – Finland 1–2 (1–0, 0–1, 0–1)

08.52 Rudolf Balcers (Ronalds Kenins) 1–0

30.52 Sakari Manninen (Mikael Granlund – Mikko Lehtonen) 1–1 pp

57.08 Mikael Granlund (Mikko Lehtonen – Sakari Manninen) 1-2 pp

Goalkeepers:
Elvis Merzlikins, LAT: 2 + 10 + 6 = 18
Harri Säteri, FIN: 3 + 7 + 6 = 16

Slovakia – Germany 1-2 (0-0, 1-2, 0-0)

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