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Monday, September 6, 2004
Isles defenseman clashes with coach


HELSINKI, Finland -- New York Islanders defenseman Janne Niinimaa walked out on Finland ahead of its World Cup quarterfinal win over Germany because of a personality clash with coach Raimo Summanen.

Finnish newspapers were in a frenzy Monday after Niinimaa's move, which was announced by the team late Sunday.

The team cited "chemistry problems with head coach Raimo Summanen" for Niinimaa's departure.

"The team finds Niinimaa's decision regrettable but will try to focus on upcoming games as well as possible," it added.

Finland topped Germany 2-1 Monday in the quarterfinals on a late goal by Mikko Eloranta. The Finns drew 4-4 with Sweden on Saturday after squandering a 3-1 lead.

"Crisis!" tabloid Iltalehti wrote across its front page, while Ilta-Sanomat devoted five pages to the story, including a three-day summary on how events came to a head.

Iltalehti also questioned how long Summanen, known for taking a more confrontational line with his players than predecessor Hannu Aravirta, could stay in the job.

Summanen said after Saturday's match that he had to "be rough on some of the players and really wake them up."

Despite Niinimaa's departure, Finland was not expected to have trouble against Germany -- although it turned out to be a closer game than many expected. The Finns already had beaten the Germans once in the tournament, a 3-0 win in Cologne on Thursday.

Finland, the first quarterfinal winner, will travel to North America for a semifinal match later this week.