HIFK, TPS, Ässät and KalPa break out the brooms in opening round of U16 SM-Series Playoffs
Heading into the opening playoff series of the U16 Finland National Championship, eight teams were vying for the chance to move on to the quarterfinals of the tournament. Following an action-packed week, the top seed in each of the four series, No. 7 HIFK No. 8 TPS, No. 9 Ässät and No. 10 KalPa, all punched tickets to the next round.
TPS’ depth too much for K-Espoo Ch
TPS was able to handle Kiekko-Espoo Ch in its opening-round series in two games largely due to the depth of its roster.
Game 1: TPS 4, K-Espoo Ch 2
Game 2: TPS 4, K-Espoo CH 1
The dynamic play-making of Aaron Willow (3A) connected often with Jeremi Virtanen (3G) to provide most of the team’s offense. At least nine other players recorded one point across the two games. In comparison to K-Espoo Ch, only five players tallied points, with Aku-Wilhelmi Lindroos leading the way with two goals. As a result of the series win, TPS will move on to play No. 5 Jokerit on Thursday.
Pakarinen leads KalPa over JYP
JYP’s start to its two-game series against KalPa was anything but boring.
Game 1: KalPa 8, JYP 3
Game 2: KalPa 4, JYP 1
The team racked up 14 penalty minutes by the 11-minute mark of the opening period. But they would take advantage while on the penalty kill, when Rafael Pihlman managed to slip a shot past Patrik Kerkola for a short-handed goal. With each team finding the back of the net in the second period, it would be knotted at 2-2 entering the final frame. Chances and goals would continue to be traded and JYP would cut into a 4-2 KalPa lead looking like things could be tied up. However, KalPa pulled away with four more goals to end the game with the 8-3 victory. Six players scored two or more points, with Topi Veteläinen topping the list with one goal and three assists.
A 4-1 final would close out Game 2 and the series for KalPa. Rasmus Pakarinen led both teams with two goals and six points, tied with Ässät’s Luukas Koski for most points among players in the opening round of games. KalPa will play No. 1 Kiekko-Espoo in the next round.
Varonen able to keep Lukko in check
HIFK entered its series against Lukko with extra motivation. After all, Lukko had shut out HIFK 3-0 in a lone matchup during SM-Series play on Feb. 4th.
Game 1: HIFK 3, Lukko 2
Game 2: HIFK 4, Lukko 1
Just when it seemed as if things were heading to overtime in Game 1, Waltteri Toivainen played the hero when he put a power-play goal home to put HIFK up 3-2 late in the period. But perhaps more impressive than that was HIFK’s goaltender Vili Varonen (39 saves) won the goaltending duel over Jooa Sammalniemi (32 saves). Sammalniemi was awarded the SM-Series’ best goaltender at the end of season awards. Despite another 31 saves from Sammalniemi in Game 2, Rasmus Baggström was still able to get two shots past him, propelling HIFK to the 4-1 win. Varonen was able to stop 21 shots, adding up to a .952 save percentage and 1.57 goals-against average for the two games. He will have to continue to be on his game in net, as awaiting HIFK in the quarterfinals is No. 2 Tappara.
Koski, Ässät get revenge against Kärpät
In a SM-Series meeting on Feb. 22nd, Kärpät edged out a shootout victory against Ässät. In that game, Luukas Koski did not get on the scoresheet. He more than made up for his absence when the two teams met again in the playoffs.
Game 1: Ässät 6, Kärpät 1
Game 2: Ässät 5, Kärpät 3
Koski scored four goals and six points, helping eliminate Kärpät in two games. Aleksi Juusela (2G, 2A) and Jesse Jullenmaa (4A) would finish just behind him to lead the club. Koski scored five of those six points in the opening 6-1 win alone. Also assisting in the sweep was the strength of Pyry Lammi in the crease, who made 33 and 32 saves in Games 1 and 2, respectively. Ässät will now face off with No. 2 Ilves when the next round of games begin on March 22nd.
WHH will have continued coverage of the U16 Finland National Championship. Be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Discord and YouTube for the latest news, top performers and more.