Siru Takala

Ilves played their last practice game against KalPa in Tesoma hockey arena on Tuesday night, August 31st. Joni Ikonen and Panu Mieho’s goals secured the Tampere team’s second consecutive victory, and KalPa fell 2–1. Ilves goaltender Marek Langhamer, who played excellently, made 26 saves. The Liiga season starts on September 11th with a game against TPS in Turku.

Ilves succeeds on the powerplay
The teams were very evenly matched and played fast hockey in the first period. KalPa’s Swedish defenseman Eric Hjorth committed the game’s first infraction and was sent to the penalty box for holding Joonas Oden’s stick. The home team immediately took this opportunity to score on the powerplay as Eemeli Suomi’s fine cross ice pass found Joni Ikonen. Ikonen, who’s having a great pre-season, stopped the clock at 13:42, and Ilves was in the lead, 1–0.

KalPa had a few scoring chances in the period. The best one was Juuso Könönen’s attempt on a 2-on-1 attack. However, Könönen missed the net from a top spot. The dependable Langhamer stopped the rest six shots aimed at Ilves’ net.

Ilves has to fight KalPa’s two-man advantage

Ilves was in a tight spot from 23:40 onwards because at that moment both Antti Saarela and Albin Grewe took two minutes’ worth of penalties, and Ilves technically played the whole two minutes with only the trio Eemeli Suomi-Jarkko Parikka-Tuomas Salmela. The trio played self-sacrificing hockey and, topped off with a great performance by Langhamer, stopped KalPa’s advances as well as kept their net untouched.

The second period continued with very even play. Panu Mieho blocked shots and tried to score on a breakaway around the halfway mark of the period, but KalPa goalie Henrik Tikkanen denied the attempt. KalPa started to take control and Ilves had trouble changing players due to the long distance to the bench. Ilves’ defense was still compact enough, and Langhamer made eight solid saves more. Ilves remained in the one-goal lead heading in to the third period.

Langhamer wins it all

In the third period KalPa pressured and so Ilves used counterattacks against them. Aleksi Elorinne took a penalty early and KalPa tried to work something on the powerplay, but Ilves and Langhamer handled everything. KalPa pressured and succeeded in getting pucks close to the net, but Langhamer’s calm routine saves as well as several quick reflex-like saves ensured that none of them got in.

Six minutes in to the third and Ilves took a two-goal lead. Aleksi Saarela’s sneaky pass found Panu Mieho in front of the net, and Mieho put the puck past Tikkanen. A few minutes later, Nichlas Baptiste received a pass from Les Lancaster and broke away towards the Ilves net, but his sharp shot only clinked the post.
KalPa received another opportunity on the powerplay five minutes before the end when Leo Lööf had to skate to the box for a cross check. Only it was Ilves who had the best scoring chances during it: first, Eetu Päkkilä passed to Aleksi Saarela who was in front of the net, and second, Joona Ikonen had a breakaway chance during the next shift. Ilves still could not score any additional goals. KalPa managed to finally score just when the penalty ended; Juuso Könönen deflected the puck in right under Langhamer’s nose.

KalPa pulled their goalie and tried to pressure Ilves some more, but Ilves defended and Langhamer handled the rest. Ilves won their last practice game with the score of 2–1.

Ilves’ season begins with an away game against TPS in Turku on Saturday, September 11th. The first home game is on Tuesday, September 21st when Pelicans arrive to Hakametsä Arena.

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