Ho hum, it’s been almost a year and a half since I last posted on here: let’s see if I can get round to posting a little more regularly. Or even seeing a few more games of ice hockey, for that matter, the latter tending to preclude the former. Last Saturday I’m visiting a friend in Kokkola, and he asks the redundant question of should we go to the game. So, it’s jump on the spare bike and go to see my first game at this level.
A glance at the programme reveals that the home side have a startlingly small squad — only 5 defenders and just enough attackers for three lines, whereas the visitors have a squad of about half the population of Tornio. Well, maybe not quite so many, but you get my drift. Sitting down, I realise suddenly that I don’t know which team is which; my friend politely informs me. Two tiers off the top flight this may be, but the standard and speed of play is very high. EtPo have somewhat the better of the opening minutes, but once Hermes get things clicking properly then the game turns inexorably to the home side. The captain, Topi Anttila, Markus Väänänen and, especially, Gatis Gricinskis are all making significant contributions to the hosts’ dominance. The opening period closes with a score of only 2-0, but that belies the true flow of the game.
At the start of the second period, I’m sort of hoping for an EtPo fight back, otherwise Hermes might run up a cricket score. That’s a wish that wouldn’t survive the period. The home domination continues, and just after the half-way mark Gricinskis makes the score 5-0. Shortly afterwards he’s involved in an altercation with an EtPo defender which, to my mind, looked like he was deliberately targetted. The oldest trick in the book and, sadly, Gricinskis takes the bait. Off come the gloves for a fight that’s even more one-sided than the ice hockey, leaving the referees with no options. The defender was also dismissed, the referees amusing the crowd by ruling “violence”, though “presenting yourself as a punch bag” would be far nearer the mark. The period ends with a score line of 6-0.
EtPo change goalkeepers for the start of the third period, thereby removing from the game easily their best player. Hermes notch up three more goals, but become very sloppy in the last 5 minutes. Their play becomes casual and some of the players are trying to settle scores. Or, does the scoreboard only have a single digit for each team? In the lethargy, EtPo steal a goal. Final score is 9-1.