Finland 4 - United States 2
A FINE FINNISH: JOENSUU’S PAIR PACES FINLAND PAST USA FOR BRONZE
By John Kurucz | Box Score
With a gutsy effort, Finland defeated the USA 4-2 to claim third place Thursday afternoon at GM Place. It was Finland’s fourth bronze in the last five years at the IIHF World Junior Championships.
Jesse Joensuu led the way with two goals, while Lauri Tukonen had a goal and an assist. Jari Sailio had the other Finnish tally, and Lauri Korpikoski added two helpers.
Bobby Ryan and Jack Johnson replied for the USA.
Tuukka Rask put in yet another strong performance in goal for Finland, stopping 37 of 39 shots. The USA’s Cory Schneider was also busy, making 45 saves on 49 shots.
This was the second consecutive fourth-place finish for the Americans. Though favoured in advance by many to win gold, they will now go home surprisingly empty-handed.
Finland had the game’s first dangerous chance 30 seconds in. A deft Lauri Korpikoski centering pass found Jesse Joensuu in the slot, but his shot was turned aside by Schneider’s left pad.
As if on cue, Nathan Davis charged right back for the Americans on the same shift, but his wrist shot from the left boards was handled by Rask.
Bobby Ryan followed suit with a flash of brilliance just after the nine-minute mark. The speedy winger somehow took a pass that was well behind him and feathered the puck between his legs to his stick, but his low shot was stopped by Rask.
The Finns countered with two excellent scoring chances in the following two minutes. The tandem of Korpikoski and Joensuu teamed up again, but Korpikoski’s hard centering pass from the left corner was too high and too hard for Joensuu to handle.
At 12:11 a defensive lapse in the Finnish zone led to the game’s first goal. After being left all alone on the right side of the Finnish net, Bobby Ryan banged home his second chance to give the Americans the 1-0 lead.
At 16:57, a thunderous hit by Nate Gerbe knocked Risto Korhonen out of the contest, and the Finnish blueliner appeared to be favouring his right knee as he was helped off the ice.
The Finns opened up the second period with an abbreviated minute-long power play, as a result of Jack Johnson’s late first period roughing penalty.
Seppanen’s screened offering from the point was Team Finland’s best chance with the man-advantage, but his shot sailed directly into the chest of a surprised Schneider.
Then at 3:30, TJ Oshie broke over the Finnish blueline with only one defender back. His lovely inside-outside move fooled Seppanen, but once in the clear, Oshie fired his shot over the net.
From there, however, the Finns began to take control. At 13:32, miscommunication by the American defence led to Finland’s first goal. With Oshie off for hooking, the Americans failed to clear the puck out of their zone, and this time Sailio made them pay. The Finnish winger picked up the puck all alone to Schneider’s left, and banged home his second chance to tie the game 1-1.
That goal seemed to spur on the Finns, and at 14:51 they were back looking for more.
In what started as a harmless looking play, Korpikoski fired a backhand from the right side boards, but Schneider’s rebound deflected off of a streaking Joensuu right back into the net. The goal appeared to go in off Joensuu’s right hip, and so the play was reviewed. But after less than two minutes of deliberation, referee Marcus Vinnerborg pointed to centre ice, and the score was 2-1 Finland.
Starting the third period, the Americans came out hard. The line of Phil Kessel, Chris Bourque, and Kevin Porter hemmed the Finns in their own zone for the opening 30 seconds. Kessel’s failed wraparound attempt to Rask’s glove side was the best chance of the shift.
Finland’s best chance with the man advantage came from Lauri Tukonen, as the winger just failed to connect with a Sailio feed from the right corner.
Then at 7:20 Korpikoski missed a glorious opportunity to give his team a two-goal lead. The versatile centre was the late man on a 2-on-1 rush and just missed potting home the rebound from a Tukonen shot.
With Teemu Laakso off for tripping at 11:03, a Jack Johnson point shot beat Rask cleanly to the lower left portion of the net, tying the game 2-2.
But the Finns just wouldn’t quit.
Tukonen took advantage of a broken play in the high slot at 13:20, and fired home a quick wrister to give the Finns a 3-2 lead.
The Finns padded their lead at 15:24, deflating the Americans. Positioned at the top of the left face-off circle, Joensuu took a nice feed from Korpikoski before rifling home a screened slap shot past Schneider’s left pad.
The Americans had no answer.
Jack Johnson, however, decided to salute the Vancouver crowd with 17 seconds left, waving sarcastically to the 15,107 in attendance.
With the win, Team Finland’s all-time record against the Americans improves to 15 wins, nine losses and one tie. Though the attendance was modest (in all likelihood due to the game’s noon start-time), the Vancouver faithful were rooting for the Finns.
It is Team Finland’s sixth third-place finish to date.
Prior to the late 1990s, the Finns were generally regarded as lagging behind the traditional hockey superpowers: Canada, Russia, the Czech Republic, Sweden and the USA.
But in recent times the Finns have adapted their game nicely, and are now more prone to play a Canadian style of hockey, with hitting, attention to defence, and a dump-and-chase game plan.
The country has also become a goaltending factory, pumping out the likes of Miikka Kiprusoff, Kari Lehtonen, and Mika Noronen.
And the future looks bright in the Finnish nets.
Antero Niittymaki is making a name for himself this year with the Philadelphia Flyers, while Tuukka Rask was among the best goalies at the 2006 IIHF World Junior Championship.
On balance, you’d have to call this tournament a success for Finnish hockey.
PREVIEW: FINLAND - USA
By John Kurucz
Finland: With three wins and three losses under their belts, the Finns have star goalie Tuukka Rask to thank for singlehandedly earning them a date in the bronze medal game. In his last two starts, the future Toronto Maple Leaf has saved 92 of 96 shots. Team Finland’s 1-0 victory over Sweden in quarter-final play guaranteed them a shot at a medal of some shade. Blanked by Canada in the semi-finals, the Finns will now look to avenge a 6-5 loss to the Americans on December 28. With a 2.13 GAA and a .937 save percentage, Rask would seem like a lock to start this contest, but Head Coach Hannu Aravirta also might decide the 18-year-old has earned himself a well-deserved rest and hand over the duties to Karri Ramo instead. Ramo played in the previous USA-Finland game, a 6-5 loss for the blue-and-white squad. Finland’s defence is bolstered by Timo Seppanen and Teemu Laakso (both with four points), but the entire group will need to be sharp in order to contain the high-powered American offence. Centre Aki Seitsonen has led the way with four goals, and Lauri Korpikoski has looked dynamic in all of his team’s contests, logging significant minutes in many key situations. Lauri Tukonen has also provided a determined, gritty presence. In terms of special teams, the Finns offer a mixed bag. Their power play has capitalized on seven of 36 chances, good for fourth in the tournament, but Finland’s penalty killing is ranked eighth, just ahead of Norway and Latvia. If the goaltending’s there, the Finns have a chance to win. And they probably want this one a little more than the USA does.
USA: The Americans have shown the crowds here in Vancouver at little bit of everything this tournament. Their record of three wins, two losses and one tie is a testament to that fact. After losing 5-1 to the Russians on January 3, the Americans will have to try to get up for this game, and the gold-or-bust mentality may impede them. Goalie Cory Schneider has started five of his of his team’s six contests, and will likely get the call again in this game. The Johnsons (Erik and Jack) continue to lead the way with four and five points respectively on defence. However, Jack Johnson has racked up 43 minutes in penalties and has a plus-minus of -2, ignoble stats that will no doubt delight his many detractors in the Vancouver crowd. Team USA’s offence has been impressive, if you set aside the way the Russians shut them down in the semi-finals. Phil Kessel is tied with Russia’s Evgeni Malkin in the points race (with 10), while Chris Bourque leads the tournament with seven goals. Like their Finnish counterparts, the Americans have had some problems on special teams. They have the third-best power play in the tournament, but their penalty killing is ranked seventh. If the Americans stay out of the box and play a high-tempo, mentally sharp game, they can defeat the Finns.
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André Brin Director, Communications | Directeur, communications