Jokerit head coach Lauri Marjamäki had taken 127 wins as a KHL coach before Wednesday’s game, which meant that he had a chance to become the Finnish head coach with the most wins in KHL over Kari Heikkilä, who coached in the league between years 2004 and 2016.
”The first period was great and the team was well prepaered. We tried to speak out before the second period, but human mind allows thing to happen sometimes. I kind of feel myself old as I reach such a record in the age of 44. This is a great league and hopefully there are many more wins to come”, Marjamäki mentioned after the game.
As Jokerit took a 3–0 lead in the first period, it seemed that the Helsinki team was about to take the easy points out of the game, but Vityaz managed to come back and made the result very narrow. Jokerit ended up winning 3–2.
”We talked before the game about having a good start and when we stepped on the ice everybody was ready," said Philip Holm, who missed some games due to an injury, but he stated that he is feeling good on the ice right now.
Jokerit started the game with good pressure in Vityaz zone and young goaltender Maxim Kloberdanets had to be ready from the first shifts. The visitors also got an early power play, when Mikhail Yepishin was sent to the penalty box for high-sticking.
Hannes Björninen got a hit to his face in the situation and the referees seemed to hesitate before giving the minor penalty. It was quickly noticed that the Jokerit forward didn’t injure himself too badly as he was there to capitalize on special forces and put Jokerit one goal up in score. The Helsinki team managed to survive a short-handed situation, even though Niko Ojamäki and other Vityaz stars tried to shoot the puck towards Janne Juvonen.
Later in the period Jokerit defenceman Otto Leskinen injured himself and hobbled to the bench after hurting his leg. He went to the locker room for a brief visit, but returned to the ice just a few minutes later. On the ice the puck was mainly for Jokerit to have. Juvonen got his first save clearly after the half way point of the period. Brian O’Neill got to a breakaway, but didn’t score. However, only a blink of an eye later the puck was behind Kloberdanets the second time and the goal was scored by Tommi Kivistö.
The reminder of the first period was also spent in Vityaz zone and Jokerit were able to hit the post of the opponent’s goal twice before Holm put a bouncing puck into home team’s net. The Swedishman played his second game after being absent with injury.
Vityaz changed their goaltender in the beginning of the second period and Kloberdanets gave the working post for Igor Saprykin. For a while it seemed that the home team had pulled themselves together as they got a few shots towards Juvonen before Jokerit got their game back on track. Kirill Rasskazov was ready at the net to sweet Vityaz first goal.
If the first period didn’t cause enough troubles for Jokerit, did Teemu Turunen hurt his hand during the second period. The forward was clearly in pain, when he was at the bench just before Vityaz got their second power play of the game. Also Turunen was able to return to the action shortly after the unfortunate incident.
Even though Vityaz got a little bit better chances to score in the second period than in the first one, still Jokerit were strongly holding on to their leader’s position.
The beginning of the third period proved that it was still about to become a tight hockey game. Ojamäki scored yet another goal and made his statistics rise even higher – and the most importantly, brought his team to just one goal behind Jokerit.
The troubles were only to come for Jokerit as Julius Junttila took a minor penalty, giving Vityaz a chance to tie the game early on in the third period. The emotions started to come to the surface as there was an increaced amount of hassles after the whistles. Holm received another penalty for Jokerit, which helped the home team to keep the momentum in the offensive zone.
”It was too much back and forth. We want to control the game and we did let them take the puck to our zone. We need to try to forecheck higher. They had too much time in our offensive zone”, Holm thought.
Vityaz defenceman Mikhail Yepishin got his teeth torn apart and he went to the locker room to recover. After a long maintenance break Jokerit got a chance to get back to a two-goal lead on power play. Kalle Kossila and Holm showed their shooting ability, but Saprykin stood strong.
The home team tried to get the score tied and pulled Saprykin off the net. Playing with six players didn’t help Vityaz as Jokerit were defending strongly and didn’t allow the opponent to get in to scoring chances. Juvonen had to only make one stop from a long-distance shot.
Jokerit started the game well on Wednesday and the goals scored in the first period were enough to give the Helsinki team the points against Vityaz. The home team got their game going after a difficult first 20 minutes, but they couldn’t make the needed plays for the needed goals.
Jokerit will continue their season on Friday in St. Petersburg, when they will compete against SKA, one of the best teams of the KHL.
”It’s a really good team there. Rival for us also in the standings. It’s a big game for us. We have to work on the second and third period”, Holm concluded.