SM-liiga results, 6.10.11


Just the two games tonight. Goals from Ivan Huml and skipper Ilkka Mikkola gave us victory after Kim Strömberg’s early goal gave Tappara the lead. Rather more fireworks down in Lappeenranta where the home side went two up, got pegged back to parity, and eventually ran away with the game in the final period.

Kärpät 2 - 1 Tappara (2-1)(0-0)(0-0)
SaiPa 7 - 2 Lukko (2-1)(1-1)(4-0)

In other news, Garrett Raboin and TPS have parted company by mutual agreement. Not satisfied with his junior role in the team, the 26 year old defender will seek other opportunities.


Blues – Ilves, 4.10.11


Blues 2 – 3 Ilves (2-0)(0-0)(0-2)(0-0)

Urho’s cameras are in Espoo for this match, and at the first break the home side have a deserved two goal lead. Kristian Kuusela opened the scoring after Teemu Ramstedt injected some pace into the attack, and towards the end of the period Mikael Kurki opened his account for the season by adding the second. Ilves give the impression of just going through the motions, and they’ll have to bring a lot more of everything into their game to avoid defeat.

At the end of the second period the biggest question is how Blues failed to extend their lead. Ilves finally came to life in the last few minutes, but prior to that Blues enjoyed almost total domination.

The match is over after extra time and penalties, and Blues’ inability to turn domination into goals has cost them a game that they had by the throat until deep into the middle period. Ilves started the final period where they left off the second and then stepped up some more, but still didn’t reach much more than parity with Blues in terms of possession. Nor were their chances especially more clear cut than their opponents’; where they were superior, however, was in finishing. After 5 minutes of the period Ari Vallin collected the second of his evening’s two penalties. In the ensuing power play, Ilves got players in front of goal allowing Ville Koistinen to thrash the puck home from the blue line past an unsighted Petri Koivisto. Five minutes later, a superb pass from Mark Lee found the advancing Ryan Glenn who slotted the puck through Koivisto’s legs. Parity at full time and parity after extra time brought on the penalty shoot out, which Koistinen settled in Ilves’ favour. Blues will be kicking themselves.

It seems to have been an evening for fight backs. In Helsinki, Kärpät opened up a two goal lead only for the hosts first to equalise and then win on penalties.  In Jyväskylä, SaiPa levelled a three goal deficit but were eventually defeated on penalties, and in Kuopio there was no fight back of any kind as KalPa made minced meat out of the Pelicans. Tampere’s other half also won on penalties, Tappara initially building up a two goal lead only to see Ässät knock it down. The best fight back was in Turku where kerho equalised from two goals behind with just 8 seconds of the hour left, and then collected the extra point in extra time.

HIFK 3 - 2 Kärpät (RL)
JYP 5 - 4 SaiPa (RL)
KalPa 6 - 1 Pelicans
Tappara 3 - 2 Ässät (RL)
TPS 3 - 4 HPK (JA)

Pesonen coming home?


The news from across the Atlantic that Janne Pesonen has not been offered a contract by Winnipeg Jets — or by anyone else, for that matter — has raised speculation that he will return to these shores to ply his trade. HIFK’s uncertain start to the season and their deep pockets make them potential candidates for his services, as do Kärpät. It’s no surprise that he would be linked with his former club, but is it realistic? Our start to the season has been pretty good, but a lot of our goals have come from the Kemppainen-Koskenkorva-Junttila fourth chain. Doing rather less well have been the first two chains: for example, Jukka-Pekka Haataja’s points haul so far is 0+3 and Michal Vondrka’s — for whom head coach Hannu Aravirta has publicly called for more effort while he’s on the ice — a less than impressive 0+2, both having played all games. Our power plays so far have netted us just the one goal, and that from defender Mikko Lehtonen. It’s not out of the question that Pesonen could link up with another intelligent, thoughtful player, Jari Viuhkola, to bring more bite to our game. Whether we could sensibly afford him in the prevailing economic climate is another matter.

Mixed bag


SM-liiga table as of 3.10.11:

1. Jokerit 7 19
2. Pelicans 8 19
3. Ässät 8 18
4. Kärpät 7 15
5. Lukko 7 14
6. KalPa 7 14
7. Blues 8 13
8. Ilves 7 7
9. SaiPa 8 7
10. HIFK 6 6
11. Tappara 7 6
12. TPS 7 5
13. JYP 8 5
14. HPK 7 5

The table’s been copied and pasted from the sm-liiga web site, so presumably I need to acknowledge their copyright. Formalities over, top of the heap at the moment are the pyjama men. They beat KalPa on Saturday with a score that eventually read 4-0,  though the game was in the balance until the last 10 minutes. Jani Rita scored twice and Eero Kilpeläinen achieved his third shut out in just 7 games. On their back bumper, a little surprisingly perhaps, are Lahti’s finest. On Saturday they won by the odd goal in five in Rauma to continue their good run of results. Ässät dropped off top perch by dint of not playing over the weekend, though Lukko’s and KalPa’s defeats mean that Kärpät retain fourth place despite also not playing. Blues occupy their seemingly obligatory mid-table position, and then a sizeable jump to Ilves, another team that appears to have “mid-table” written into its league contract. Next comes SaiPa, who at least have the excuse of lack of financial clout, followed by HIFK, who most certainly do not. Life is not so easy post Kari Jalonen it seems, something that is all too familiar in these parts up here. Tappara, nowadays under new head coach Risto Dufva, have made progress in the last few games after a calamitous start to the season, and propping up the lot are the three(*) three lettered acronyms. Rumours are flying that kerho’s Harri Rindell will soon become the third head coach casualty of the season. Good grief, the season’s hardly started.

Down a notch in Mestis, Raksila’s second team, Kiekko-Laser, are facing bankruptcy. Management are trying to arrange new financing, but it seems that at least one major creditor is less than convinced of its viability.

(*) Yes, I know JYP isn’t a TLA, but “three three lettered acronyms” is a nice compact cliche so I used it.

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