Team leads best-of-three final series 1-0 over TPS
Showing incredible character and resilience, TPS has earned its way into the championship series against Tappara in the U16 SM-Playoffs. One of the best teams this season, Tappara has been a mainstay at the top of the WHH rankings. In their lone SM-Series meeting during the regular season back on February 19th, Tappara skated away with a 4-3 victory.
Finding itself down in a series once again, it will take another comeback effort by TPS to have any chance of getting the title. Earlier today, Tappara secured a 6-3 victory in Game 1 of the best-of-three championship series. Eetu Orpana and Joonas Rajala each tallied two points, and Atte Joki added two goals as well. Olli Wahlroos (5G, 6A), Jeremi Virtanen (8G, 2A) and Wilmer Kallio (5G, 5A) have all done a serviceable job to this point for TPS. Wahlroos even leads all skaters in postseason scoring. But to contend with Tappara, more of the team’s depth players will need to chip in offensively.
Up front, Tappara brings a formidable squad of players experienced with piling up the points. While not leading the overall playoff scoring table, players such as Orpana and Rajala understand how to do damage when games are much more magnified at this time of year.
And if neither of those skaters is putting the puck in the net, Tappara can rely on its dynamic duo between the pipes to backstop them to wins. Eero Rönö and Petrus Virta are the guardians of the crease for Tappara. They have statistically been two of the best goaltenders since the SM-Playoffs began.
Rönö has recorded a .950 save percentage and sparkling 1.33 goals-against average thus far, compared to the .919 save percentage and 2.71 goals-against average of Virta. Attempting to get pucks past one of these goalies in any match would be a tall order for any club, but to have to beat them twice in a three-game series amplifies the task at hand.
But a challenge is not anything new to TPS, especially this playoffs. At the end of the regular season SM-Series in Finland, TPS found itself just outside the top four spots, which would have secured a bye in the first round of the playoffs. As a result, its playoff journey would begin in the wild card round, with a meeting with K-Espoo Ch. Unfazed by the task before them, TPS swept K-Espoo in two games.
The next club standing in their way was Jokerit. Despite falling in the first game, 5-2, TPS rebounded with two straight victories to take the series. Next up, another best-of-three matchup with Ilves. Again falling in the first contest, 6-1, Wahlroos scored three times over the next two games to lead TPS’s comeback in the series.
Prediction: TPS’ journey to this point hasn’t been easy, but they have admirably put it all on the line when the games matter most. While a loss in Game 1 was a minor setback, the team has proven that it can make the necessary adjustments to its game plan. While I believe Tappara will win the championship, TPS will make things interesting by winning Game 2 to set the stage for a winner-take-all Game 3 on Sunday.