ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — The spring and summer months for a pro hockey player are often a time of healing, recharging and working on some individual drills to improve. For IceHogs goaltender Kevin Lankinen this past offseason was anything but that.
Lankinen was on the ice at the BMO Harris Bank Center in Rockford Monday morning for the first full day of training camp with the IceHogs. Back in May he was competing in the International Ice Hockey Federation’s World Championships. That’s the biggest international hockey tournament in the world outside of the Olympics. Lankinen was the starting goaltender for Finland and his team won it all.
So how big of an emotional high and a rush was it to be a part of that whole experience?
“It was really big,” said Lankinen. “For me coming from Finland you always watch those championships every year and dreaming of being there one day and just to make the team and the team starts doing well and you find yourself in the final against Canada.”
Finland defeated Canada 3-1 for the championship. In the semifinals against a loaded team from Russia Lankinen came through with a shutout in a 1-0 thriller.
“I had some butterflies in my stomach for sure but it as fun. They had some really, really good players and it was the first time for me playing against top leaders in the world Ovechkin, Kucherov, all kinds of guys.” “I probably played one of my best games in my whole career.”
The entire country of Finland went delirious over the championship.
“Finland’s only won it twice before so that was a big thing,” said Lankinen. “We had a couple big celebrations. The market square we had 50,000 people in Helsinki. You kind of get those couple weeks of feeling like a rock star.”
Performing so well on such a big stage was a tremendous boost to Lankinen’s confidence.
“Bringing home the medal and just playing against one of your idols, Lundqvist for example, beating him and then all these other guys kind of seeing that, ‘Hey, I can do well against these guys.’ I think that will bring a lot of confidence coming up to this season.”
The Blackhawks organization is deep with talent at the goaltender position, so Lankinen knows he has to keep improving.
“I have a lot of work to do. I feel like I had a good camp at Blackhawks’ camp. I got some good feedback and I felt really well there.” “I would say my goal is to play in the NHL this year.”
Lankinen played in 19 games for the IceHogs last season. His record was 7-12-1. He had a 2.50 goals against average and a .910 save percentage.