Published: Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Phantoms, Finns set to face off
Finland's speed is expected to test Mahoning Valley.
BOARDMAN The Mahoning Valley Phantoms play host to Team Finland in an international game Thursday at the Ice Zone. A special face-off time is scheduled at 5 p.m.
"Finland is a fast team, possibly the fastest we'll see this season," Phantoms coach Bob Mainhardt said. "They will test our physical conditioning."
Team Finland's roster includes forward Toni Rajala, who turns 16 in March and is considered a top prospect for the 2009 NHL draft, according to one independent scouting service.
"European countries like Finland and Sweden preach a style of hockey that stresses speed and quick puck movement," Mainhardt said. "They will be playing on a smaller ice surface here, so we hope to use that to our advantage."
Smaller ice surface
In international competition, Finland normally plays on an Olympic ice sheet, which is 100 feet wide. The Phantoms play on an National Hockey League ice sheet at the Ice Zone, which is 85 feet in width.
"Their passing lanes will be narrower here and they will have to adjust," Mainhardt said.
At the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy, Finland captured the silver medal.
"Some of the players we will see Thursday tonight will represent Finland's Olympic team in the future," Mainhardt said.
"Many people remember the 'Miracle on Ice' in 1980 when the U.S. beat the Russians. What many forget is that the U.S. then had to beat Finland for the gold medal. They have a very rich hockey history and it has produced a great national program."
Though the game will not count towards the Phantoms' regular season record, the team is treating the matchup as if it were a playoff game.
"For most of us, this is our first experience playing against other countries," right wing Matt Quigley said. "I'm very excited to be playing an international team."
Tickets will be available at the Ice Zone or by calling (330) 965-1423. Ticket prices range from $6-9. The Phantoms also will also host to Team Sweden on Jan. 3 at 7 p.m.