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US Defeat Finland In A Thriller

PHOTO: MATT ZAMBONIN / HHOF-IIHF IMAGES

The second game of the day featured the US play host to Finland to see who would advance in the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championships against Canada that has this semi-final match the tournament’s two top power play teams facing off.  

The fast paced, yet aggressive semi-final saw Arthur Kaliyev score the winner over a dejected Finish team with 1:16 remaining in what many thought would be headed to period four.

The win set-up what is expected to be one of the most intensive battles dating back to the 72-73 in the eight game Summit Series between the USSR and Team Canada.

Being down by two goals had many thinking that it was over, but to the shock of many especially the US fans, the Finns fought back from a two-goal second period making it a 3-3 game.

Unlike the come-back 3-2 quarter final win over Sweden this one was a pressure cooker putting the US on their heels, but stranger things have happened in the past.

The final between the US and Canada for the final championship match-up is only the fifth final in World Junior history (1997, 2004, 2010, 2017). 

While we (Canadian fans) are looking for Team Canada to pull off the inevitable by defeating the US who ironically have won the last three Gold-Medal games.

After two consecutive medal-round losses to Finland in the semi-final, this clearly provided revenge for the US over past games. 

The 2019 Gold Medal game 3-2 win by Team Finland played in Vancouver but we must remember that Team Finland managed to win the 2020 quarter-final 1-0 in the games played in Trinec.

The US relied heavily on “tender” Spencer Knight and his two shutout performances, while Team Finland’s “tender” Piiroinen has managed one and ironically both were playing in their fifth starts of the tournament. Finland outshot the U.S. 36-26.

Both US players Kaliyev and Turcotte each had one goal and one assist while Matthew Boldy managed the other goal. 

Finish player Kasper Simontaival scored a pair while Roni Hirvonen buried one while Ville Heinola added a pair of assists.

To no real surprise the US are focused on grabbing their fifth all-time Gold Medal (2004, 2010, 2013, 2017), while Team Finland are doing their best to win Bronze for the first time since 2006 in Vancouver.

The Finns pestered the US that saw US scoring leader Trevor Zegras (16 points, tied with Canada’s Dylan Cozens) who tried the lacrosse move, albeit unsuccessfully that Carolina’s Andrei Svechnikov used successful scoring twice last season.

This contest saw Turcotte open the scoring (second of the tournament) at 12:39, while Kaliyev sent a low shot that bounced off Turcotte’s leg at the side of the net, that saw him tap the puck past Piiroinen’s right skate.

Entering the game had the US  working at 42.1% while the Finns were at 40% (6-for-15).

At 14:06, Simontaival tied it up on Finland’s first man advantage. Heinola took a center point shot that Kasper Puutio directed to a wide-open Simontaival in front for his third of these World Juniors.

Farinacci was sent in off a stretch pass set up from Jackson LaCombe while the Finns were on an attempted line change that saw him beat Piiroinen on a breakaway making it 2-1 at 15:53.

While attempting a simple check Finland’s Aku Raty was assessed a high-sticking double-minor that sent the US on their first PP. 

Finland managed to get a chance when the puck was sent over the glass for delay of game senging Cole Caufield giving Finland the PP.

Simontaival cut the US lead scoring at 11:38 to move within one on a play that was somewhat like his first goal, but ironically as it is the US were assessed a second delay of game minor with 4:42 that saw Hirvonen bang in the rebound.

The Americans were looking to get revenge for loss to Finland in last year’s semi-final loss defeat in OT as they opened the scoring off the stick of Alex Turcotte with 7:21 in the first giving the US a 1-0 lead. 

Finland managed to tie the game at one when Kasper Simontaival scored his first of two in the game with under six minutes remaining managing to beat Spencer Knight short side above glove to bring momentum to their team.

John Farinacci put the Americans up 2-1 on a breakaway beat Finland goalie Kari Piirionen with under five minutes left in the second. 

With goals only 1:07 later Matthew Bodly scored to give the Americans a 3-1 lead heading into the final period.

Finland’s Kasper Simontaival scored at 7:22 in the third cutting the USA lead to 3-2 while on the PP with many thinking possible OT. 

Both teams pressed for the go-ahead goal but goalies Spencer Knight of the Americans and Kari Piirionen were sensational keeping the game tied and it was Arthur Kaliyev scored the game winning goal firing the puck over the Piirionen glove of Piirionen to give the Americans a 4-3 lead with 1:16 left in regulation time.

Finland pulled Piirionen for an extra attacker to try for a game tying goal but Spencer Knight of the Americans made several key saves to preserve the USA victory that saw Matthew Boldy sacrifice his body by blocking a Simontaival shot to seal the victory.

US “tender” Spencer Knight was named the best player for the US making 33 saves while Finland’s Kari Piirionen finished with 22 saves on 26 American shots in the game.

The gold medal game is set to feature Canadian play the US in what will be a thriller with the face-off set for 5:30pm Pacific time. 

The Bronze game will feature Finland taking on Russia for Bronze in third place with the face off at 2:30pm on TSN.