SM-liiga results, 28-29.9.11


28.9 HPK 1 - 4 Pelicans
28.9 Kärpät 1 - 4 Blues
29.9 JYP 2 - 5 Ässät

Well, it had to happen: our first defeat in normal time of the season. But did it really have to be at home? By such a heavy scoreline? And, of all the teams on earth, by Blues? The pain is almost real. There were two games last night, featuring my two favourite teams at home against opponents who have a long history of under-achieving. Both teams got pummelled by the same 1-4 scoreline. Kärpät went down with all hands in Raksila to the aforementioned men from Espoo, and Kerho suffered the same fate in Rinkelinmäki to Pelicans.

Just the one game tonight, in Jyväskylä, where the league’s basement dwellers, JYP, hosted Ässät. Ässät are a resurgent team these days, carrying on from their strong season last year after aeons in the wilderness. The first period was nip and tuck with both teams having chances. Only one was taken, by Ässät’s Joel Armia, who siezed on the loose puck after Arto Laatikainen had over-elaborated in defence. JYP’s defensive frailties were further exposed in the second period, the beneficiary on this occasion being Radek Smolenak, scoring a ridiculously soft goal. Short-handed and with a defender blocking his route to goal, the Czech nevertheless shot towards goal only to see the puck ricochet off a skate and loop innocuously in the air towards Joni Myllykoski. Bizarrely, the goalkeeper allowed the puck to bounce off him and back towards the now unattended Smolenak who had ambled in after his own shot. The same man made it 0-3 with a power play goal 90 seconds later, and came within a whisker of a hat trick when he steered a shot onto a post from directly in front, and then seconds later hit the other post with the attempted wraparound. At the end of the period it was the visitors’ turn to pay for their complacency. Just 6 seconds remained on the clock when Eric Perrin won a face off just outside the Ässät defensive zone, going forwards. He fed Ossi Louhivaara who skipped round Antti Raanta to score.

JYP exerted increasing pressure in the final period and reduced the arrears to a solitary goal when Antti Pihlström lashed in from distance on the power play. The equaliser wouldn’t come though, and JYP’s attempt to force it by withdrawing Myllykoski cost them two further goals, both while playing six versus four. First, Ville Uusitalo scrambled the puck down the ice for Tomas Zaborsky to race on to and score. At the following re-start, Stephen Dixon beat Perrin and fed back to Uusitalo who immediately scored into the still vacant net from his own half.

Ässät’s players now occupy three of the top four places in the points market. Uusitalo leads with 1+9, second is Smolenak with 5+4, and fourth is Zaborsky with 5+2. The interloper is HIFK’s Ville Peltonen with 4+4.

JYP’s defeat keeps them at the foot of the table, while Ässät’s victory makes them the new league leaders, two points clear of Jokerit. Pelicans win means that they overhaul the Weasels into fourth place, and Blues victory lifts them to their usual mid-table mediocrity.

There was an interesting interview with Stephen Dixon during one of the interludes in today’s game. He won World Championships at both U18 and U20 with Canada, has played in the AHL, but never had the opportunity to show his skills in the NHL. When asked about this he was calm and philosophical, hoping for the chance, but content with things if it doesn’t come. He came to Europe at quite a young age; he’s 26 now and has previously played in both Sweden and Russia. He surprised me by saying that the game in Finland is faster than in either Sweden or Russia, and it took him a couple of games to adjust to the pace over here.


SM-liiga results, 27.9.11


KalPa 3 - 4 Ässät (JA)
Lukko 4 - 1 JYP
SaiPa 3 - 0 Ilves
TPS 1 - 4 Tappara

After the brief hiatus over the weekend (mine, that is, not the ice hockey), it’s back to the results round up. Four matches tonight, and we’ll start in Turku where Tappara finally won a game. Things didn’t start too well for them though. Soon after the start, Timo Salo got 2+10 for one of the most brainless pieces of boarding I’ve seen in a long time. Tappara’s ensuing power play was woeful, struggling even to get over the halfway line for most of it. Matters continued in much the same vein, and midway through the first period Ville Vahalahti, playing in his 601st top league game, took advantage of some sloppy defending to put TPS a goal up. At some point soon afterwards, Tappara suddenly remembered how to play, and became the more coherent of the two teams, though still without any serious threats on Marek Schwarz’s goal.

The second period continued in much the same pattern as the latter part of the first period, with Tappara playing really quite well. Penalties proved to be TPS’ undoing: they only took two of them, both minors, but Tappara scored during each, first through Tuukka Mäntylä and then through Jussi Makkonen. The killer goal came midway through the final period when Antti Erkinjuntti, who had a very effective game, stretched Tappara’s lead to 1-3. TPS played a very long time with Schwarz absent from his net-minding duties in a vain attempt to rescue the game, but eventually Tuomas Vänttinen added a fourth for the visitors with just one second left on the clock.

As Tappara were eradicating the league’s last remaining 0% record, so too was the last remaining 100% record being destroyed. Ässät travelled to Kuopio where they twice trailed before eventually winning in extra time. Ryan Lannon opened the hosts’ account and Jukka Hentunen extended the lead. However, goals from Tomas Zaborsky and Veli-Matti Savinainen levelled affairs with half an hour gone. Matti Kuparinen restored the home advantage with the game’s only power play goal at the beginning of the final period, only for Stephen Dixon to tie things up again. The match was finally settled by Aki Uusikartano in extra time. Top points scorer of the game was Radek Smolenak with 0+3.

Elsewhere, Lukko added to JYP’s growing problems by beating them in Rauma, Teemu Nurmi getting one of the goals while the hosts were short-handed. Lastly, in Lappeenranta, SaiPa recorded their second victory of the season by beating Ilves 3-0, all goals coming in the final period.

KalPa’s point takes them over Kärpät into second, with Ässät and Lukko in hot pursuit in fourth and fifth respectively. Tappara’s win takes them up a place from bottom to level on points with TPS. The bottom team now, improbably, is JYP.

SM-liiga results, 23.9.11


A full round of results in SM-liiga last night. KalPa continued their perfect start to the season, but Kärpät’s went down the drain at Rinkelinmäki in extra time. Jokerit became the latest team to stick a hat full past Tappara, a win that takes the men from Helsinki to second in the table, above Kärpät. SaiPa got their first points of the season with a win in Turku, taking them above JYP in the table, and leaving Tappara all alone on nil points. Lukko rise to fourth place with an extra time win against Ilves.

Blues 1 - 3 Ässät
HPK 2 - 1 Kärpät (JA)
JYP 1 - 3 Pelicans
KalPa 4 - 1 HIFK
Lukko 3 - 2 Ilves (JA)
Tappara 0 - 5 Jokerit
TPS 3 - 4 SaiPa

HIFK – Tappara, 22.9.11


The third round of matches was completed tonight with Tappara’s visit to Helsinki. They must wish they had stayed at home, for their abysmal start to the season continued with a 6-0 thrashing. The game was effectively over as a contest by the first break. HIFK already led 4-0 at this stage, through goals from Mikko Kousa, Toni Söderholm, Eero Somervuori and the ever reliable Kimmo Kuhta. Veteran Ville Peltonen made it 5-0 in the second period, and Mikko Jokela completed the scoring in the third. Shortly afterwards Jokela got his marching orders for violent conduct. Tappara’s defence has haemorrhaged 19 goals in just three games, and this defeat takes them below SaiPa to the foot of the table. HIFK’s win lifts them to fourth place, a point adrift of neighbours Jokerit.

SM-liiga results, 21.9.11


Two more games tonight, in Jyväskylä and Lappeenranta. Both hosts were without a point before today’s games, and SaiPa remain so after a 1-4 defeat by KalPa. Matti Kuparinen opened the scoring for the visitors after only 14 seconds, and then shortly afterwards stretched the lead to 0-2. Jarno Koskiranta reduced the deficit with a power play goal, but second period goals from Henri Laurila and Joonas Riekkinen sealed the away victory. KalPa’s win maintains their 100% start to the season and lifts them to the top of the league. SaiPa remain anchored at the other end.

In Jyväskylä, JYP embarked on their new life without Risto Dufva. It started very well too, with Tuomas Pihlman opening the scoring against Blues on precisely two minutes. However, penalties in the third period cost JYP dear, enabling Teemu Ramstedt to equalise while Blues had a two man advantage. No further goals meant extra time, after just 33 seconds of which Arto Laatikainen scored the winner. JYP 2-1 Blues.

SM-liiga results, 20.9.11.


Ilves 1 - 4 TPS
Jokerit 6 - 0 HPK
Kärpät 4 - 1 Lukko
Ässät 1 - 2 Pelicans (rl)

Four games this evening, from which two teams lost their 100% records for the season. The victims were Ilves and Lukko, both being defeated by 1-4 score lines. The former went down at home to TPS, who gained their first points of the season in the process. The latter made the journey to Raksila, where our fourth chain was again firing on all cylinders. Goals came from Kimmo Koskenkorva, Mikko Lehtonen, Joonas Kemppainen and Miikka Salomäki, with Jussi Pesonen replying for the visitors. In the far south, the pyjamamen slaughtered Kerho. Teemu Pulkkinen got a pair, and the other goals came from Ben Eaves, John Klingberg, Riku Hahl and Juhani Tyrväinen. Over in Pori, things were much tighter. Aki Uusikartano put the Aces ahead early in the final period, but Ryan Lasch levelled matters within three minutes. One apiece when the final hooter sounded, and still the same five minutes later at the end of extra time. Pelicans grabbed the extra point when Arttu Luttinen broke the deadlock in the penalty shoot out.

First casualty of the season


JYP have announced the parting of the ways between their head coach, Risto Dufva, and themselves, citing the breakdown of cooperation between the two parties. In his four or so years as head coach, Dufva transformed JYP from also-rans into champions. They also won a bronze under his tenure and have headed the final runkosarja table for the past two seasons. This season has started poorly for JYP with successive defeats by KalPa and Kärpät, but given that the season is not yet a week old and his excellent record with the club, it’s difficult to see how the results so far can have contributed to Dufva’s demise other than as an impetus to an already fermented decision. JYP will miss him. An announcement about his replacement will be made later.