United States 6 - Finland 5
USA TRIUMPHS OVER FINLAND IN WILD AFFAIR
By Daniel Wilson | Box Score
After convincingly defeating Norway in its opener, the USA faced a much tougher challenge from Finland on December 28, but still managed to walk away with a 6-5 win in front of 12,209 spectators at the Pacific Coliseum.
Leading the way for the U.S. were Blake Wheeler with two goals, Bobby Ryan with a goal and two assists and Robbie Schremp with three assists. In net, Jeff Frazee got his first start of the tournament and made 31 saves.
“We have confidence in both goalies,” said USA Head Coach Walt Kyle. “Jeff has a lot of experience and I thought he played well.”
Finland had five different scorers: Mikko Alikoski, Lauri Korpikoski, Aki Seitsonen, Lauri Tukonen, and Teemu Laakso. In goal, Karri Ramo got his first start of the tournament and made 38 saves.
The crowd was largely behind the Finns in this one, despite booing them Monday against Canada. Both teams started off with strong, physical play, but then things settled down about five minutes into the game.
Finland opened the scoring with a quick goal off a faceoff by Alikoski at 6:21.
At 8:26, Lauri Korpikoski chipped the puck past Chris Bourque, playing the point on the power play, and took the puck in all alone to beat Frazee with a weak shot. The Finnish forward tumbled into the boards as he registered this shorthanded tall.
The tide turned in favour of the Americans midway through the first as Finland took four consecutive penalties. The USA first tallied at 9:42 on the power play. After a flurry of rebounds for Tom Fritsche, one dribbled past Ramo to make the game 2-1.
The Americans added two more goals before the end of the period, first from Wheeler at 17:05 on a centering pass from the corner by Peter Mueller and second from Brian Lee on the power play, with a weak shot from the point that handcuffed Ramo at 19:49. The period finished with the USA ahead 3-2.
“They came out a little quicker than we did at first,” said Wheeler. “It just shows a little about our character to come back how we did.”
The second period began with Phil Kessel taking a hooking penalty. Finland capitalized on the power play, as Aki Seitsonen scored at 1:28 with a wrist shot from the point to tie the game 3-3.
Back and forth action and a lot of neutral zone play followed before Matti Koistinen of Finland took an interference penalty. This led to a power play goal for Ryan at 8:01, as he came out from behind the net to put the puck past Ramo, giving the USA a 4-3 lead.
Both teams then traded penalties, culminating with a double minor for high-sticking against Finland’s Leo Komarov. This led to puck control for the Americans for about three minutes, but they couldn’t score, hitting the post once in the process.
The USA added another goal at 19:18 of the second period, when Wheeler converted a great pass from Ryan and it was 5-3.
The third period began with 4-on-4 action, and Kessel hit each post on two consecutive shots. The USA then dominated most of the play, firing tons of rubber at Ramo.
At 9:59 Kevin Porter tallied on the power play, slipping the puck past Ramo to make the game at 6-3.
Finland attempted a comeback, as at 15:34 Lauri Tukonen scored after a great breakaway pass from Leinonen to narrow the score to 6-4. Finland then made it 6-5 at 18:48 when Teemu Laakso scored from the point on the power play, but it was too little, too late for the Finns.
“I’m very proud of the guys, because after we got down early, we were able to come back,” said Kyle. “We thought Finland was going to be hungry and they were.”
The Players of the Game were Fritsche for the USA and Korpikoski for Finland.
The USA next battles Switzerland at the Pacific Coliseum on December 30 at 16:00, while Finland and Norway hook up there at 20:00.
PREVIEW: USA - FINLAND
By Andrea Lee
USA: The Americans will be back at work tonight after having yesterday off to savour their 11-2 pounding of Norway on Monday. Team USA currently sits atop almost all statistical categories, including goal scoring, assists, and plus-minus. Because they played their game so effectively, expect the line combinations and defensive pairings to stay relatively similar to what was seen previously. Their top line of Chris Bourque, Phil Kessel, and Kevin Porter should not slow down anytime soon. That trio combined for 14 points in the last game. The American defence also got into the scoring act. Jack Johnson and Erik Johnson played physically and had two and three points, respectively. Cory Schneider will most likely start in goal again. The Finns will certainly put up a bigger fight than Norway did against the Americans. Yet the USA will probably dominate this game and add one more “W” to their “W” column.
Finland: The Finnish team will look to bounce back in their second game of the tournament after losing to Canada 5-1 in their Boxing Day match up. Finland hasn’t faced the Americans since 2004 and they should be looking for redemption, as the Finns lost to the USA 2-1 in the semi-finals that year--the same year the Americans won their first-ever gold medal at the IIHF World Junior Championship. The Finns are smaller than their American counterparts, but they are fast skaters. Forward Aki Seitsonen had the lone goal for Finland on Monday. He and his teammates will have to shoot the puck more as they only mustered 17 shots on goal in that game. Lauri Korpikoski and Lauri Tukonen will need to show leadership among the forwards, and Jesse Joensuu must play a strong power game. D-man Juho Jokinen will have to pick it up, coming in with the worst plus-minus on the squad with -3. And goalie Tuukka Rask will probably get the start again as Finland’s last line of defence. It would be an important vote of confidence for the first-round draft pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Finns should come out flying, but unless they drastically up their physical play and reduce defensive errors, they will be pretty hard-pressed to seal a victory against a strong US team.
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André Brin Director, Communications | Directeur, communications