The going in the SM-liiga has been tough lately for Karri Ramo. Despite some valiant efforts the young netminder has been buried behind a string of 40 shot, 5 goal allowed games and the Pelicans' lack of talent has finally caught up to Ramo. Still, Ramo did manage to beat Ilves yesterday 4-3 in OT, stopping 24 of 27 shots. He has slipped overall to a .905 sv% and 3.77 GAA.
However, it is important to note again that Ramo is playing against full grown men in the SM-liiga. Against junior competition, he posted what still stands as the second best sv% in Junior A behind only highly touted Tuukka Rask. Rask is expected to be as high as a top-ten pick if and when the 2005 Entry Draft ever happens.
And, last week in the 5 Nations U-19 tournament Ramo more than held his own in posting the tournament's best GAA. Ramo went 1-1 dropping his first game of the tournament 3-2 in penalty shots to the Czech Republic before rebounding to shut out Switzerland 3-0 stopping 17 of 17 shots.
Finland finished second in the tournament to Scandanavian rival Sweden. The Finns had a chance to win the tournament in a showdown with the Swedes in the final game of the round robin, but Finnish coach Petri Matikainen chose to stick to his rotation and start Aleksis Ahlqvist who lost 4-3 in OT. Ahlqvist, who plays for JYP's Jr. A team finished with a dismal .860 sv% and allowed 8 of the 10 goals the Finns surrendered in the entire tournament. Far be it for me to Monday morning quarterback the decision of a coach from across the pond, but perhaps with tournament on the line Matikainen should've sat Ahlqvist, who went undrafted last year, in favor of Ramo who is already battle tested at the elite level in Finnish hockey?