Liiga Review: New homes bring new groove to Aatu Räty and Axel Rindell

LIIGA / Artikkeli
Aatu Räty tallied two goals and two assists in his first two games with Jukurit.
Kuva © Oskari Mäkisarka /

Trading players is not exactly a usual thing to do in Liiga, as most of the time teams release players from their contract letting them sign with whomever they want.

However, in the past month Jukurit and Kärpät came to an agreement on trading players, but on a loan basis. New York Islanders prospect centre Aatu Räty and defenceman Veli-Matti Tiuraniemi were shipped to Jukurit for more ice time with Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Axel Rindell coming the other way to strengthen Kärpät's defence.

Räty for certain seems to be enjoying the change of scenery. After struggling to stay in the line-up in Oulu, he has stormed out of the gates in his new uniform. Räty scored in each of his first two games for Jukurit and added two assists in his debut.

− He has adapted to our game extremely well since the moment he arrived. He is very eager to develop himself, and it's nice to coach a player like that, Jukurit head coach Olli Jokinen told Ilta-Sanomat after Räty's first game.

Rindell's start in Kärpät was spectacular as well. The defenceman scored his first goal of the season on his first shot giving the team the lead. The following game was rougher with visiting team KalPa leading 3−0 after the first period, but Rindell's four assists helped Kärpät turn the game to a 5−4 victory.

Kuva © Ella Taponen

KooKoo − a force to be reckoned with

Liiga dropped the relegation system in 2013 but has since allowed three teams to join as expansion teams. One of those teams was KooKoo, whose entrance was nothing like the Golden Knights' type of instant success. After being in the bottom five for the first four seasons, the team has just recently developed into a top contender.

In the 2019−20 season, KooKoo ranked fifth and would have made the playoffs, if only the season hadn't been called off due to the covid pandemic. The following season they ranked ninth and were eliminated during the playoffs qualifier round.

This season, KooKoo's competitiveness has found a whole new gear as the team currently resides in second place with 38 points in 22 games.

The start of the season wasn't the easiest with new coaching staff and plenty of new players on the roster. But since the start of October, they have only lost four of the fourteen games played, and the team has won seven out of their ten home games making them one of the best home teams in Liiga.

Head coach Olli Salo was satisfied with his players' commitment to the game and each other ahead of their battle against Ilves.

− Our game has slowly started to come together, and we've constantly managed to take steps in the right direction. But we still have plenty of things that we want and can do better, Salo told Jatkoaika.

One of the most intriguing players on the team has been former Lukko captain Heikki Liedes who has managed to score 11 goals in 22 games. That's also Liedes' personal record as the man has been previously known more as a bottom-six forward than a top scorer.

− Liedes is an excellent team player. He is very aware of his own strengths as a player and is someone we can use in any type of situation on the ice, Salo gushed about his player.

Besides Liedes, forwards Joose Antonen and Kim Strömberg and the rookie goaltender Nick Malík have also been top-notch off-season acquisitions for the team. In 13 games Malik, the son of former NHLer Marek Malík, has recorded a 92,3 save percentage putting him second in the league after HPK's Daniel Lebedeff.

Middle finger leads to suspension

Another notable prospect, the 2022 NHL draft-eligible, JYP forward Brad Lambert made the headlines for being ejected from a game for waving his middle finger at the opposing team bench. He had been tackled by the boards just moments prior whilst assisting on JYP's goal.

Lambert was then suspended one game for his obscene gesture.

Other notable things in the past weeks were HPK veteran defenceman Arto Laatikainen playing his 1,000th Liiga game, and HIFK recording their 10,000th goal in team history.

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