Host nation Finland named nine players who played in this season’s KHL in the roster for its first action against Norway. Three of them combined on the third goal in the Leijonat’s 5-0 victory in front of an enthusiastic crowd in the new arena in Tampere. Ville Pokka, whose goal broke Russian hearts in February’s Olympic final, forced a center ice turnover and the former Avangard man released ex-Jokerit forward Marko Anttila down the right. Anttila’s feed fell perfectly for Hannes Bjorninen, his erstwhile clubmate, to beat Henrik Haukeland from close range.
That extended an advantage built by Harri Pesonen’s opener late in the first period and Toni Rajala’s unassisted effort midway through the second. Norway battled hard, and had chances to get a shock early lead against the tournament host, but a characteristic display of Finnish teamwork delivered the expected result.
The third period brought further goals for Joel Armia and Jere Sallinen, while Juho Olkinuora made 20 saves to begin his tournament with a shut-out.
In Friday’s other evening game, Canada defeated Germany in Helsinki. Pierre-Luc Dubois scored twice to open a 5-1 lead inside 40 minutes. In the final session, Canadian penalty trouble brought two German tallies on 5-on-3 power plays but there was no dramatic recovery. Canada took the verdict 5-3.
Earlier in the day, the Group A action began with Slovakia defeating France 4-2 in Helsinki. Dinamo Minsk goalie Patrik Rybar backstopped the Olympic bronze medallist to victory in its opening game, but an unfancied French roster – missing Stephane Da Costa due to injury – caused a stir when it battled back from 0-2 to tie the game at 2-2 in the second period. But Severstal’s Adam Liska set up Samuel Takac for the go-ahead goal late in the middle frame and an empty-netter from Pavol Regenda made the game safe.
In Tampere, Latvia suffered a 1-4 loss to Team USA. The Latvians named six players who featured in the KHL this season – and many more with experience playing for Dinamo Riga in our league over the years – but fell behind early against a youthful American team and was unable to find a way back. Andris Dzerins was the only scorer for Harijs Vitolins’ men.