Niklas Hagman, Mikko Koivu lead Finland to 5-1 win over Belarus

By Josh Ferguson

Niklas Hagman netted a pair of goals and Mikko Koivu chipped in three helpers as Finland opened up Group C action with a 5-1 win over Belarus at Canada Hockey Place on Wednesday.

Belarus found itself in a hole early when Aleksandr Makritski was nabbed for holding the stick just 2:41 into the game. The Finns made Belarus pay on the ensuing power play when Olli Jokinen buried a cross-crease pass from Saku Koivu to make it 1-0.

Hagman found a loose puck in front of the Belarusian goal and shovelled a backhander home on another power play marker at 17:50 of the first. 

The Finns controlled the pace for the entire first period and shut down the Belarusians, who took 12 minutes to register its first shot of the game. Finland outshot Belarus 17-2 in the opening frame. 

Belarus responded just 21 seconds into the second period when Sergei Demagin intercepted a pass from Finnish defender Lasse Kukkonen behind the net and dished the puck off to Sergei Kostitsyn who finished off the play to narrow the gap to 2-1.

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However, Hagman restored the two-goal lead at 16:52 of the middle frame when he walked out from the half boards and dangled through a prone Makritski before backhanding a beauty passed Belarusian netminder Vitali Koval. 

Valtteri Filppula and Jarkko Ruutu added a goal each in the final frame and the Finns never looked back on their way to solidifying a tournament-opening win against Belarus.

Miikka Kiprusoff’s demands were met and he was given the start for the Finns in Game 1. Kiprusoff made 11 saves for the victory, while Koval was easily the best player for the Belarusians and made 40 saves on 45 shots. 

Without the services of Mikhail Grabovski and Andrei Kostitsyn, Belarus was only able to register 12 shots on the Finnish goal.  

The Finns (1-0) resume tournament play Friday night when they meet the Germans. Belarus (0-1) will try to rebound from its loss against Sweden earlier on Friday.