HIFK wins 5-1, Perreault on leave.
(Photo via HIFK team site)
HIFK won against Tappara 5-1 in the last home game of 2012. The game held particular significance to both teams as they were separated by only two points in the league. Tappara had won both of their previous encounters this season.
Both teams had changes to their roster as Tappara's Alexandr Barkov Jr. and HIFK's Thomas Nykopp and Markus Granlund are playing at the World Juniors. For Tappara, Barkov's absence was more significant as he is the leading play maker of the team.
Mathieu Perreault was missing from the roster too. For some reason HIFK has been quiet about the reasons to his absence. The unconfirmed rumor has it that he has been given a slightly longer leave than the rest of the team so his able to visit home during the holidays. His return to Helsinki apparently depends on the latest developments on the Lockout negotiations. It is evident that both the team and the fans would love to have him here as long as possible.
After the Christmas break, the question was which one of the teams would be ready to play on the puck drop. After the first few minutes it was evident that Tappara was better prepared as HIFK struggled to gain control to the puck. Throughout the first, Tappara was on top, creating better scoring chances. It wasn't a complete surprise when Ville Nieminen scored for Tappara at 14:21. However after the goal the momentum slowly turned to HIFK towards the end of the period.
The tide turned completely in the second and now it was HIFK's turn to set the tempo. Joakim Ericsson's equalizer fired up the team at 29:23. Quick goals by Kyle Klubertanz and Siim Liivik, just 24 seconds a part, at 36:07 and 36:31 seemed to settle the game.
Joël Perreault's great individual effort in the beginning of the third sealed the game for HIFK. It seemed that third was going to be just mere cosmetics but at 45:38 Tappara's frustration boiled over and both Lockout players Jannik Hansen (Vancouver) and Kurtis Foster (Minnesota) were sent for the showers on the same play. HIFK wasn't able to capitalize during the 5min power play that followed, but scored once more just 5 seconds to the end. Shots on goal 45-43 for HIFK.
HIFK has just less than 24 hours to ready them selves for the big game tomorrow as they face the local rival Jokerit in a Helsinki derby. Jokerit has a steady lead in the league. The team is well balanced just refuses to lose games this season. HIFK needs to put up a top performance tomorrow if they want to challenge Jokerit on their home ice.
Game highlights via Ruutu