Philippe Cornet’s Strong Start with HPK Liiga

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(HPK’s Interview with Philippe Cornet – August 25, 2016)

HPK finished 13th in the Liiga last season and this summer they overhauled the coaching staff and players in an effort to be far more competitive this season. Even with the preseason seven game 3-wins and 4-losses, fans are already seeing some positives, and HPK’s 3-2 shoot-out win vs. Kärpät in their first game of the 2016-17 regular season on September 17th was a great start.

Since arriving at HPK’s training camp about seven-and-a-half weeks ago, former OKC Barons Philippe Cornet has settled comfortably into the Hämeenlinna area and with the HPK team. In Cornet’s first interview with the team he described his initial impressions of living in Finland.

“It’s nice! I didn’t really have any expectations before I got here. I’d never been to Finland so I didn’t know much about it, and even less about Hämeenlinna,” he said. “It’s very nice and it’s bigger than I thought.”

Cornet explained to Lauri Meriläinen, with Jatkoaika, that he had been in contact with his former Barons teammate Josh Green, who is currently in his fourth season in the Liiga, now with Kookoo where he is Captain of the team this season.

“During the last couple of years I have been in contact with [Green]. I played with him for a couple of seasons in the AHL and he’s a great guy. He gave me some good tips about Finland and the league.”

As for the HPK team and his play, Cornet has seen personal improvement since he arrived in Finland for training camp. “I think I’ve been playing better and better. I’m just getting used to the system and the new team. I’ve been fortunate to play with some good linemates as well. Oula [Palve] has been playing very well, so that has helped me a lot.”

Cornet told Jatkoaika’s Antti Wennström, “we are very fortunate to have a skilled coaching team and also experienced players on the team. Niko [Kapanen] and Antti [Pennanen] make sure that I am kept updated. They explain a lot of the training material in English.”

During the preseason Cornet played on a very successful line with Oula Palve and in the seven preseason games (including the first game vs KHL Sibir), Cornet tallied 4 goals and 2 assists; however it should be noted that the Liiga does not include the KHL preseason matches in their official league statistics.

In Saturday’s first regular season game for the team Cornet joined a line with HPK’s hometown legend Niko Kapanen, who had missed the preseason matches due to injury, and Sakari Manninen, who was HPK’s leading scorer in the preseason. The Manninen-Kapenen-Cornet line proved to be HPK’s best line of the night, scoring both of HPK’s goals. Manninen scored HPK’s first goal midway through the 1st period with assists from Kapanen and Joonas Lehtivuori.

Later in the 2nd period Cornet had one of the team’s highlight goals to put the team up 2-0 in the 2nd period. With a great pass from Manninen, Cornet patiently waited out Kärpät’s goalie Sami Aittokallio (former Colorado Avalanche draft pick) and calmly popped the puck into the net between Aittokallio’s outstretched skate and the goal post.

Cornet described his goal to Jatkoaika’s Wennström. “At first I didn’t know what to do. I was going to shoot but [Aittokallio] put pressure on me by coming out aggressively. I told the guys that I haven’t even practised anything like that before. I just let it happen,” Cornet said with a smile after the game.

Postgame Cornet talked about his future objectives, “on a personal level, my intention is to shoot more.” He said he spent too much time thinking about the situation at times, and he just needs to shoot. Cornet and I talked about this topic in 2012 when his shooting percentages were off the charts in the OKC Barons early season. I asked him how that happened on the ice for him, and he told me:

Cornet:  I think it is hard to explain. It’s not something I think about. It is not something necessarily I want to be good or bad – I never really looked at my shooting percentages before. It just means that every two or three shots basically I get a goal so maybe I should just keep shooting even more. [laughing]

And that is basically what happened on Saturday – Cornet had 3 shots on goal and 1 goal. So, yes, keep shooting, Philippe Cornet, and we’ll be watching the shooting percentages this season in the Liiga.

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Note: Many thanks to Lauri Meriläinen for his very helpful assistance with a few of the Finnish quote translations. (Any mistakes are all mine!) I highly encourage fans to follow Lauri on Twitter (@lauri3000) for more HPK and Liiga news.

Links and articles referred to above:

Lauri Meriläinen’s article on Philippe Cornet “Kerhon kanadalaisvahvistus on ammentanut Suomi-tietoutta entiseltä kapteeniltaan” at Jatkoaika (August 20, 2016).

HPK Interview with Philippe Cornet (August 25, 2016).

Antti Wennström’s article on Philippe Cornet “HPK:n tehoketjun maalinsylkijä nöyryytti kärppävahtia: “En ollut edes harjoitellut sitä!” at Jatkoaika (September 18, 2016).

Cornet’s goal for HPK – Sept. 17, 2016 ; and Liiga video clips and stats of the game.

Philippe Cornet – OKC Barons (January 2012).

Philippe Cornet

Philippe Cornet at OKC Barons Training Camp, 2 October 2012 (Photo: Patricia Teter. All Rights Reserved.)