On 6 November, the Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, Finland, hosted a game between Finland and Sweden, the first teams to hit the ice in the preliminary round of the 2015/2016 World Legends Hockey League season.
The two teams put up a tough fight, just like almost any other encounter between these longtime rivals. It wasn’t until the second half of the first period that the first goal was scored by Finland’s Kai Nurminen, which also became the first goal in the Legends League season. It took Mika Nieminen just two minutes to double the score.
However, the two-point lead by Finland did not reflect the situation on the rink, since the Swedes attacked more in the first period and Finland wasn’t the only team to score points. With only 55 seconds left to play, Patrik Juhlin got the puck past Finland’s goalkeeper Ari Sulander, and in another 30 seconds Roger Hansson tied the score.
In the second period Sweden substituted Åke Lilljebjörn for its goalkeeper Tommy Soderstrom who was apparently down on his luck failing to stop two shots out of eight. The Swedish team took the lead almost instantly with a goal by Thomas Rodin.
Just like the gala game in Moscow on 3 October, the encounter was far from an exhibition performance. The referees refrained from too much interference, letting the teams play it out, and closing their eyes to minor fouls, which were numerous. Thomas Eriksson committed four violations, resulting in four penalty shots. Esa Tikkanen missed the first two, but scored the third past Lilljebjörn just one minute before the second period ended.
There were no goals in the third period. Finland’s Timo Peltomaa had the best chance of scoring during a penalty shot for Eriksson’s foul, but was unable to outplay Lilljebjörn.
Regulation time ended in a tie. With no overtime under the League’s rulebook, the winner was to be determined in a penalty shoot-out. Both teams had already performed a number of penalty shots during the game with Finland scoring two of five, and Sweden failing all three shots.
Finland’s captain and the idol of local hockey fans, Jari Kurri, didn’t leave any chances to Lilljebjörn in his first attempt. Sweden’s Anders Karlsson also upset the goalkeeper, this time Ari Sulander. Reijo Ruotsalainen scored the second shot for Finland, while Patrik Juhlin missed his shot. Nurminen then scored the third goal in the series, securing the victory for his team. Nevertheless, Roger Hansson made an attempt, but was unable to get the puck past Sulander, who became the best player of the game. Thomas Rodin was named MVP of the Swedish team.
Finland has thus secured a spot in the super finals, which are to take place in January at Moscow’s VTB Ice Palace. Sweden also stands a chance to make it to Moscow, since it only lost in the shoot-out, and will still be awarded points. To qualify, the games between Germany and Russia (21 November), and the Czech Republic and Slovakia (16 December), need to end in regulation time.
Pavel Bure, President of the World Legends Hockey League:
– Doing something new and good makes you feel great. Just a few minutes ago I visited the teams in their locker rooms and talked to the players; they are all in a good mood. I think it’ll be a thrilling and uncompromising competition. I strongly believe that all the games in this tournament will be this way. I know all the players who will be playing today. Esa Tikkanen and I played together in Vancouver 20 years ago. It’s always great to meet people you’ve known for years but haven’t been able to see often enough.
FINLAND vs SWEDEN 4-3 S (2-2, 1-1, 0-0)
1:0 Nurminen (Jarvi, Virta) 9:08
2:0 Nieminen 11:23 PS
2:1 Juhlin (Eriksson) 14:05
2:2 Hansson (Juhlin, Rohlin) 14:34
2:3 Rhodin 16:19
3:3 Тикканен 28:50 PS
4:3 Ruotsalainen 45:00 S
Finland: Sulander; Eloranta – Ruotsalainen, Hamalainen – Stromberg, Virta – Numminen; Jarvi – Tikkanen – Kurri, Peltomaa – Nieminen – Varis, Palo – Helminen – Nurminen, Porvari
Sweden: Soderstrom (15:00 Lilljebjorn); Rohlin – Eriksson, Djoos – Rhodin, Svensson – Larsson; Naslund – Rundqvist – Carlsson, Roupe – Thuresson – Ohling, Juhlin – Berglund – Hansson, Lindstrom – Mikael Andersson – Kenneth Andersson