Extra sweet victory for Finnish-based Claireaux
French success over Finland has been limited in hockey. Les Blues had lost all eight meetings against their Nordic opponents before last night's game, while in the CHL only Grenoble had managed to cause an upset – beating the Espoo Blues 2-1 back in the 2015-16 season.
by Pavel Kuba
PARIS – That lack of success was until last night's famous French victory in Paris, defeating Finland 5-1 to well and truly begin the IIHF World Championship for the co-hosts after a disappointing loss the previous day. And for one French player it was an even sweeter victory, as Valentin Claireaux currently plays his club hockey for Lukko Rauma.
"We messed up the opening game a bit, but the game against Finland was a big one and and we're obviously very happy with the result we got," said the 26-year-old. "We knew how important this game was going to be, we prepared well and give it all. We were able to stick to our gameplan throughout the whole game and it paid off."
"It's awesome to beat Finland and even better that I scored a goal. But the team performance is what matters," continued Claireaux, who had one assist for Lukko in four CHL games this past season. "Hearing the national anthem at the end is priceless.
"About Florian Hardy? I have one word – unbelievable. He was rock solid the whole game and helped us to stay in it. His save with the stick was the turning point. It's a save you don't even hope for. It helped us tremendously, he kept us in the game and we simply had to win this one for him. It's amazing to play in front of such a big and loud crowd. That's something we're not used to from other World Championships."
Anthony Rech of the Gap Rapaces also notched three points in France's win.