The defending champs are still rolling. Joonas Oden scored in the third period to give Finland a 1-0 win over the U.S. and a berth in the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship semi-finals.
On the power play, Kristian Tanus, Finland’s leading assist-getter, looked off the U.S. defence before centering the puck to Oden, who hammered it home from the hash marks at 4:23.
The tight quarter-final in front of 4,451 fans in Třinec was a rematch of the 2019 World Junior gold medal game, and once again Finland came out on top. This ends the U.S. medal streak at four consecutive years.
In a showdown between two of the tournament’s most highly touted netminders, Finland’s Justus Annunen bested the U.S.’s Spencer Knight for his first World Junior shutout. Final shots were 30-29 for the U.S.
Depending on the outcome of the Sweden-Czech Republic quarter-final, Finland will play either Canada or Russia.
No nation has won consecutive World Junior titles since Canada’s last five-peat (2005-09). The Finns previously won gold in 1987, 1998, 2014, 2016, and 2019. The U.S. won gold in 2004, 2010, 2013, and 2017. In the 2010’s, these two nations were tied for most World Junior titles, with three golds apiece.
Neither team gave an inch from the get-go. The U.S.’s Jack Drury was shaken up right at the start in a collision with Tanus next to the Finnish bench. Then Alex Turcotte clipped Antti Saarela’s mouth with a high stick, taking a double minor, but the Finns were kept to the perimeter on the four-minute power play.
The chippiness picked up late in the period, and John Beecher went off for a late hit from behind on Eemil Erholtz in the neutral zone.
With less than five minutes left in the second period, U.S. blueliner Zac Jones came within a hair’s-breadth of opening the scoring when he hit the post.
In the third period, Lenni Killinen had the best early chance, but Knight stoned him from the slot. Annunen was equal to the task when Drury rushed in to tip the puck at point-blank range. However, Drury was subsequently sent off for hooking, leading to Oden’s opening goal. Oden missed on a 2-on-1 rush a couple of minutes later.
As the U.S. battered in vain at Annunen’s wall, Finnish fans chanted the towering Kärpät Oulu netminder’s name. The Americans got one last great opportunity for the equalizer when Antti Saarela was sent off for slashing with 1:15 remaining, and coach Scott Sandelin called his timeout to strategize.
It was Cole Caufield’s 19th birthday, but even on this special day, the sniper who tied Alexander Ovechkin’s single-tournament U18 Worlds goals record (14) back in April couldn’t find the range. Annunen foiled his quick release from the faceoff circle, and that was as close as the U.S. would get with their goalie pulled.
Things got ugly just before the final siren as American assistant captain Oliver Wahlstrom hit Ville Petman in the head and was ejected with a five-minute major.
Finland’s Raimo Helminen, who played in a record-setting six Winter Olympics and led the 1984 World Juniors in scoring en route to silver, is one step closer to his first gold medal as a head coach / will go home without a medal.
The only two previous U.S-Finland quarter-finals were lopsided American wins. Peter Mueller scored the power-play winner in a 6-3 romp in 2007 in Sweden (Mora), and Jerry D’Amigo led the way with two goals in a 6-2 victory in 2010 in Canada (Saskatoon).
After such a low-scoring affair, the U.S. and Finland may both reflect on how differently things could have played out if they had brought top 2019 draft choices Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko respectively.
Neither Hughes, the #1 overall pick of the New York Rangers, nor Kakko, the #2 overall pick of the New Jersey Devils, was released by his NHL club. Yet both have struggled to adapt as 18-year-old rookies. Neither is in the hunt for the Calder Memorial Trophy. In December Hughes (6+10=16) had two goals and three assists, while Kakko (6+8=16) was limited to three assists. It is hard to see how another shot at World Junior gold could not have benefited each player’s development.
Regardless, as the U.S. packs its bags and Finland preps for the semi-finals, nobody is really in a woulda, coulda, shoulda mood right now. There’s still plenty of World Junior history to be made.
04:46 – 🇺🇸 PEN – Turcotte, high sticking double minor
16:37 – 🇺🇸 PEN – Beecher, late hit
27:20 – 🇫🇮 PEN – Erholtz, hooking
43:34 – 🇺🇸 PEN – Drury, hooking
44:23 – 🇫🇮 PP GOAL – Oden (Tanus, Heinola)
58:45 – 🇫🇮 PEN – Saarela, slashing
59:57 – 🇺🇸 PEN – Wahlstrom, checking to the head major + game misconduct
W: 🇫🇮 Annunen (30-30)
L: 🇺🇸 Knight (28-29)
SHOTS ON GOAL
🇫🇮 10+6+13 = 29
🇺🇸 11+12+7 = 30
🇫🇮 Goaltenders: Justus Annunen, Kari Piiroinen. Defence: Santeri Hatakka, Ville Heinola, Anttoni Honka, Mikko Kokkonen, Kim Nousiainen, Peetro Seppälä, Lassi Thomson (C), Toni Utunen (A). Forwards: Eemil Erholtz, Lenni Killinen, Matias Maccelli (A), Joonas Oden, Ville Petman, Patrik Puistola, Sampo Ranta, Aatu Räty, Aku Räty, Antti Saarela, Kristian Tanus.
🇺🇸 Goaltenders: Spencer Knight, Dustin Wolf. Defence: Ty Emberson, Jordan Harris, Zac Jones, K’Andre Miller (A), Mattias Samuelsson (C), Spencer Stastney, Cam York. Forwards: John Beecher, Bobby Brink, Cole Caufield, Jack Drury, Parker Ford, Curtis Hall, Arthur Kaliyev, Shane Pinto, Jacob Pivonka, Nick Robertson, Alex Turcotte, Oliver Wahlstrom (A), Trevor Zegras.
|🇫🇮 FINLAND||vs.||UNITED STATES (C) 🇺🇸
(previous 24 Aug 2019)
|Last Title||reign ends
(since 29 Dec 2019)
(+ 1 tie)
|First IHLC Meeting (FIN vs. USA)
🇫🇮 FIN 8-1 USA 🇺🇸 – 27 Dec 1980 – WJC – Landsberg am Lech 🇩🇪
|Previous IHLC Meeting (FIN vs. USA)
🇫🇮 FIN 6-5 USA 🇺🇸 – 02 Aug 2019 – WJS – Plymouth 🇺🇸
|Last IHLC Game
🇺🇸 USA 4-3 CZE 🇨🇿 (OT) – 30 Dec 2019 – WJC – Ostrava 🇨🇿
|Next IHLC Game
🇨🇦 CAN 5-0 FIN 🇫🇮 – 04 Jan 2020 – WJC – Ostrava 🇨🇿