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Jeff Kolpack, Published April 20 2009

U18 hockey: Finns finish bronze

It’s not how you start. It’s how you Finnish.

Finland rallied from a 4-1 deficit and then won in a dramatic shootout to claim the bronze medal Sunday in the World U18 Championship at the Urban Plains Center. The 5-4 win over Canada was not just another consolation hockey game.

Goalie Joni Ortio stopped both shots he faced in the shootout, setting off a gloves- and helmet-flying celebration for a team that looked defeated just a couple hours earlier.

“Some will say a bronze doesn’t feel as good as the other medals,” Ortio said. “But I can tell you it feels just as good. It’s always nice to go home with something to bring with you.”

Nothing was decided in the first overtime, a

10-minute period of 5-on-5 hockey. So the next format called best-of-three shootout. Both of Finland’s entrants, Toni Rajala and Teemu Pulkkinen scored while Canada’s John McFarland and Ryan O’Reilly both misfired.

The fact the game even got to that point was surprising.

“We were definitely looking good,” said Canada’s Dylan Olsen. “But we sat back and didn’t realize how much time was left. They proved to us they could come back and it caught us off guard.”

The Canadians broke a

1-1 first-period tie with two goals 23 seconds apart by Zack Kassian and Landon Ferraro and the Finns were never a serious threat until they got going in the third period.

The key goal came late in the second period when Rajala took advantage of a Canadian defensive lapse and scored to make it 4-2.

“The turning point was 4-2,” said Canadian head coach Mike Johnston. “I thought we had the game under control. It looked like a harmless play but they pounced on it.”

The loss ended a disappointing tourney for the Canadians, who went unbeaten in pool play before losing 2-1 to the United States in the semifinals, Finland, meanwhile, left Fargo barely needing an airplane.

“So amazing,” Ortio said. “This was a three-year project for us. So amazing, all the work we put into this.”

FIRST PERIOD: 1, Canada, Olsen (Hishon, De Haan), 5:34 (pp). 1, Finland, Kumpulainen (Mankinen), 6:05. 2, Canada, Kassian (O’Reilly), 12:29. 3, Canada, Ferraro (Holland), 12:52.D

SECOND PERIOD: 4, Canada, Holland (Ferraro, Hishon), 35:58. 2, Finland, Rajala (Aaltonen), 38:40.

THIRD PERIOD: 3, Finland, Karajalainen (Vatanen), 44:35 (pp). 4, Finland, Rajala (Vatanen), 48:39 (pp).

OVERTIME: No scoring.

SHOOTOUT: F, Rajala, Pulkkinen. C, None.

GOALIE SAVES: Canada, Zador, 11-19-12-10-0—52. Finland, Ortio 9-9-7-4-0—29.

Jeff Kolpack can be heard on the Saturday Morning Sports Show, 10 a.m. to noon on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia