Kazakhstan All Heart But No Finnish

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Dec 27, 2018; Victoria, British Columbia, CAN; Finland forward Samuli Vainionpaa (12) screens Kazakhstan goaltender Demid Yeremeyev (30) during the third period at Save on Foods Memorial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Simon Fearn, Island Sports News

The newly promoted Kazakhs competed hard in their opener but couldn’t keep up with Finland, falling 5-0 in Victoria on Thursday night.

Dec 27, 2018; Victoria, British Columbia, CAN; Finland forward Kaapo Kakko (24) scores on a wrap around shot on Kazakhstan goaltender Demid Yeremeyev (30) during the third period at Save on Foods Memorial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Simon Fearn, Island Sports News
Dec 27, 2018; Victoria, British Columbia, CAN; Finland forward Kaapo Kakko (24) scores on a wrap around shot on Kazakhstan goaltender Demid Yeremeyev (30) during the third period at Save on Foods Memorial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Simon Fearn, Island Sports News
Dec 27, 2018; Victoria, British Columbia, CAN; Kazakhstan forward Dmitri Mitenkov (25) goes down during the second period at Save on Foods Memorial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Simon Fearn, Island Sports News
Dec 27, 2018; Victoria, British Columbia, CAN; Kazakhstan forward Dmitri Mitenkov (25) goes down during the second period at Save on Foods Memorial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Simon Fearn, Island Sports News

Otto Latvala, Aarne Talvitie, Samuli Vainionpaa, Kaapo Kakko and Aleksi Heponiemi scored for Finland, which bounced back after a 2-1 loss to Sweden to kick off the tournament. Jesse Ylonen chipped in two assists. The Finns outshot Kazakhstan 56-18.

“They’re probably not a skilled team, Kazakhstan, but they have a lot of heart in what they do,” said Talvitie. “They gave us some pressure at the beginning of the game, but when the game went on, I think we picked up a lot and then got a couple of scoring chances and a couple of goals. After that we just rolled with our own playing.”

Dec 27, 2018; Victoria, British Columbia, CAN; Finland forward Kaapo Kakko (24) controls the puck against Kazakhstan forward Oleg Boiko (5) during the third period at Save on Foods Memorial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Simon Fearn, Island Sports News
Dec 27, 2018; Victoria, British Columbia, CAN; Finland forward Kaapo Kakko (24) controls the puck against Kazakhstan forward Oleg Boiko (5) during the third period at Save on Foods Memorial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Simon Fearn, Island Sports News

This was beneficial for Finland’s offensive confidence in its quest for its fifth World Junior title ever. Previous gold medals came in 1987, 1998, 2014, and 2016.

Dec 27, 2018; Victoria, British Columbia, CAN; Finland forward Aarne Talvitie (25) celebrates his goal against Kazakhstan goaltender Demid Yeremeyev (30) (not pictured)during the first period at Save on Foods Memorial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Simon Fearn, Island Sports News
Dec 27, 2018; Victoria, British Columbia, CAN; Finland forward Aarne Talvitie (25) celebrates his goal against Kazakhstan goaltender Demid Yeremeyev (30) (not pictured)during the first period at Save on Foods Memorial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Simon Fearn, Island Sports News
Dec 27, 2018; Victoria, British Columbia, CAN; Finland goaltender Filip Lindberg (31) and Finland defenseman Henri Jokiharj (15) defend against Kazakhstan forward Ivan Vereshagin (28) during the second period at Save on Foods Memorial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Simon Fearn, Island Sports News
Dec 27, 2018; Victoria, British Columbia, CAN; Finland goaltender Filip Lindberg (31) and Finland defenseman Henri Jokiharj (15) defend against Kazakhstan forward Ivan Vereshagin (28) during the second period at Save on Foods Memorial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Simon Fearn, Island Sports News

Finnish coach Jussi Ahokas gave backup goalie Filip Lindberg his first World Junior action ever, and it paid off with the shutout. Demid Yeremeyev, another debutant, was a show-stealer all night in net for Kazakhstan, despite the lopsided score.

The Finns started a little slowly, while Kazakhstan looked excited to be playing its first World Junior game since a 7-1 relegation round loss to Latvia in Ottawa on 4 January, 2009. The Victoria crowd chanted, “Kazakhstan! Kazakhstan!”, in support of coach Sergei Starygin’s underdogs.

“It feels like home because all the people were supporting and yelling,” said Yeremeyev. “I didn’t expect that would happen in our first game. Thanks to the Canadian people who supported us in our first game! It helped a lot.”

However, the early good times wouldn’t last for the former Soviet republic that bid unsuccessfully against China for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Dec 27, 2018; Victoria, British Columbia, CAN; Kazakhstan goaltender Demid Yeremeyev (30) nd Kazakhstan defenseman Yaroslav Khripkov (19) defend against Finland forward Rasmus Kupari (19) during the third period at Save on Foods Memorial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Simon Fearn, Island Sports News
Dec 27, 2018; Victoria, British Columbia, CAN; Kazakhstan goaltender Demid Yeremeyev (30) and Kazakhstan defenseman Yaroslav Khripkov (19) defend against Finland forward Rasmus Kupari (19) during the third period at Save on Foods Memorial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Simon Fearn, Island Sports News

Yeremeyev made a flurry of heroic saves just before Latvala beat him high with a glove-side wrister on Finland’s 11th shot at 12:52.

“There was a lot of traffic in front of the net and the rebound headed straight to my stick,” said Latvala. “There was an empty net at the time, and it was easy work to put the puck in.”

Dec 27, 2018; Victoria, British Columbia, CAN; Kazakhstan goaltender Demid Yeremeyev (30) receives the player of the game award after the third period at Save on Foods Memorial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Simon Fearn, Island Sports News
Dec 27, 2018; Victoria, British Columbia, CAN; Kazakhstan goaltender Demid Yeremeyev (30) receives the player of the game award after the third period at Save on Foods Memorial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Simon Fearn, Island Sports News
Dec 27, 2018; Victoria, British Columbia, CAN; Finland defenseman Oskari Laaksonen (2) receives the player of the game award after the third period at Save on Foods Memorial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Simon Fearn, Island Sports News
Dec 27, 2018; Victoria, British Columbia, CAN; Finland defenseman Oskari Laaksonen (2) receives the player of the game award after the third period at Save on Foods Memorial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Simon Fearn, Island Sports News

Talvitie, the Finnish captain, got his second goal of the tournament when Valeri Orekhov’s botched outlet pass wound up on his stick in the high slot, and he roofed it home at 15:08.

The fans roared when Oleg Boiko knocked down Finnish assistant captain Henri Jokiharju, and Yeremeyev robbed Talvitie just before the first period ended. But the Finns had clearly seized the momentum with a 17-6 edge in shots.

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