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IFK Helsinki edge TPS in shootout, advance

Wild action as IFK Helsinki attack the TPS net.
© IFK Helsinki/CHL via Getty Images

IFK Helsinki are on to the next round after a two-game set against fellow Finnish Liiga club TPS Turku that couldn't have been closer. It was decided in a shootout. Read more in Gamecentre

by Steven Ellis, with contribution from Eero Hurmerinta

It would require taking the lead four separate times on Tuesday, but IFK Helsinki will move on to the round of 16 in November following a 6-5 aggregate victory over TPS Turku.

“A win is a win,” relieved IFK defenceman Tommi Taimi shrugged after the game. “It was a bad game by us – the majority of the team wasn’t really in the game. It didn’t differ emotionally from the games we play in Liiga.” 

Heading into the game, both teams were tied by a score of 1-1 following the first game of the round of 32 last Tuesday. That meant that the winner of game two would be the one that takes the overall victory, so every goal mattered more than ever.

It took just two minutes for TPS Turku to get the first goal. After Teemu Vayrynen’s chance near the crease proved to be unsuccessful, Oskari Siiki was there to converge on the rebound after a previously fanned chance, beating Kevin Lankinen for the 1-0 goal.

At the other end, Oskari Setanen had to be sharp between the pipes for TPS, specifically in two challenges from Joonas Rask. At 8:08, Rask went in all alone on Setanen, only to get hooked, but not before Setanen made a big stop with the right pad. The play resulted in a penalty shot, but Setanen was there to stop the door once again and to keep his team in the lead.

These two teams were evenly matched, so it made sense that IFK would tie the game up before the end of the first. With about seven minutes to go, Jasse Ikonen would score on an empty cage after Micke Asten was stopped, only to send the puck out to Ikonen in front to make it 1-1.

IFK would get one more before the end of the frame. At 16:39 of the first, Juhamatti Aaltonen found Corey Elkins in front of the net, with Elkins easily using his wrist shot to beat Setanen at the left hashmarks to make it 2-1 for the home team.

It took just 48 seconds in the second for TPS to tie the game up. This time, Ilkka Pikkarainen converted a pass from Martin Berger into a wrist shot goal, beating Lankinen to knot the game up once again.

But the tied match wouldn’t stay that way for long. TPS would regain their lead from early in the first after Topi Taavitsainen made a beautiful deke around Lankinen at 2:58 in from, giving Turku the 3-2 lead in the contest.

The series between IFK and TPS seemed to have some of the most intense, back-and-forth action in the tournament, and that continued midway through the second. IFK would get the home fans back into the contest. At 13:29, Miro Heiskanen sent the puck out to Micke Asten, who redirected the puck at the doorstep to make it 3-3 and keep the aggregate tie in the tournament as well.

Both teams were nervous in the third, knowing that the next goal was likely going to be the game winner. For IFK, no other player made more sense when it came to getting the go-ahead marker, with leading-scorer Teemu Eronen whipping a hard slap shot past Setanen to gain their lead back. 

With time ticking down, IFK thought they had the game won, or so they thought. With 51 seconds left in the game, Teemu Eronen picked up the loose puck in a goal mouth scramble, beating multiple defenders in front to tie the game up for TPS and force the game into a 10-minute overtime.

On the tying goal, Taimi described, “I didn’t know where the puck was. I actually thought I was sitting on it, but then it was between my legs. I should have seen it there. The puck was then put in, everyone of us in the team should have got the puck out of danger. Those things happen, but in the end it doesn’t matter.”

The overtime proved to solve nothing, resulting in a five-man shootout to decide who moved on. Juuso Puustinen would get the skills competition moving along with a tremendous move, giving IFK the advantage. Then, Eemeli Heikkinen finished it off with a goal between the legs of Setanen and in for the 5-4 victory, good enough to advance IFK to the round of 16 in November.

"I can't believe that we played a 10-minute, 3-on-3 period without a goal," remarked IFK Helsinki coach Antti Tormanen. "If there are just six guys on the ice and no goals in 10 minutes, I think the shootout is fair way to solve the winner. No need to wait any longer." Looking ahead in the competition, he said, "The games coming up will be toughter and tighter, because the opponents will only get better. We think that we are ready for the challenge – our aim is to be the better team in each game and, in that way, reaching the Final is possible."