Coming into the 2017 World Junior Hockey Championship as the defending gold medalists, Team Finland’s squad wasn’t quite as potent as the group that claimed the trophy last year, but was still expected to do fairly well.
After failing to register even a single point in their first three game of group-stage play, the young club watched on as Switzerland defeated Denmark in a shootout to force them into fifth place, and make them participate in the three-game relegation round for the right to stay in the IIHF’s Top Division.
With their fate sealed, becoming the first team to miss out on the medal round after claiming the gold the previous year, the Finnish Ice Hockey Association wasted no time in making some drastic changes in an attempt to salvage what they could from the tournament and keep Finland among the top teams in the world.
Just hours after the Swiss win, it was made public that the entire coaching staff had been fired — still with one game remaining in the preliminary round — with a new head coach taking over for the final, meaningless game of the round robin and the inevitable relegation series.
Drama in Team Finland. Coach Jukka Rautakorpi and 3 assistant coaches fired just now. Jussi Ahokas is the new head coach starting from now.— Sami Hoffrén (@shoffren) December 31, 2016
The hope is that Ahokas will be able to turn things around in time for the country to find the form needed to win a few contests. When dealing with teenaged players already feeling the pressure of a winless start, it remains to be seen how this added turmoil will affect their play.