Team USA and Team Finland renew acquaintances this afternoon in Halifax in an attempt to secure the bronze medal. A win would give Finland their second bronze in as many years, while the Americans are looking to earn a rare WJC medal and their first since 1997.
Both teams finished second in their respective divisions and looked strong in their semi-final match-ups before succumbing to Canada and Russia, respectively, in the third periods. Team USA’s one-goal loss was especially tough to swallow because they were competing strongly in a game they were outshot by a wide margin..
The Americans are lead by goaltender Robert Goepfert, who is second in the tournament for both save percentage and goals-against average. Goepfert was awarded player of the game honours in the effort against the Canadians as he engaged Marc-Andre Fleury in a great goaltending battle. It does not get any easier for Goepfert and the Americans today as they face Finish sensation Keri Lehtonen, who is one of the most heralded young goaltenders in the tournament. The number-two overall pick in last year’s draft, Lehtonen has impressed the masses with his focus, size, and puckstopping ability.
The Finnish lineup is deep and talented. Tuomo Ruutu and Sean Bergenheim have paced the offence with their keen scoring instincts and their ability to play physically. The team also boasts a contingent of offensive-minded defensemen, led by Jussi Timonen. Timonen often looks to be the fourth forward on the ice, not afraid to move deep into the offensive zone. His desire to pinch has cost him, however, and his plus/minus for the tournament is -1.
The Americans are lead by forward Zach Parise, who will likely be a high selection in the upcoming NHL draft. Parise often appears to have the puck on a string as he weaves into the offensive zone, and his vision allows him to make timely passes. Christopher Higgins is the other big gun in the American attack..
Two offensive teams who possess great goaltending, Team USA and Team Finland, should play an exciting game in front of another expected capacity crowd. Check back throughout the game for up-to-the-minute updates as well as after game for comprehensive analysis at www.canadianhockey.ca.