The World Juniors culminate in the Gold medal game and the Bronze medal game. Both games are in Hartwall Arena and feature rematches of pool play contests, with the US facing Sweden for the Bronze medal and the host Finland taking on Russia for Gold.
Bronze Medal Game
Sweden opted to go with Felix Sandstrom in goal instead of Linus Soderstrom, their tournament star. The US stuck with Alex Nedeljkovic.
In a recurring theme, Team USA got up 2-0 and then got blitzed for two Sweden goals, caught outnumbered and out of position. They took a penalty near the end of the period and started the second shorthanded.
In the second the US carried the play and scored 4 times. The highlight of the game was Anders Bjork’s 2nd goal. He undressed the Swedish D and then the goalie as he roofed the puck at the 36:31 mark. This was shortly after a 4 minute powerplay expired for the US, Nick Schmaltz was bloodied by a high stick from Rasmus Asplund. Nick came back quick however and assisted on the final goal of the period by Brandon Carlo.
The third period saw Team USA add another two goals. Sweden scored late to make it an 8-3 final.
The US squad gave a great effort to win the Bronze Medal. It made us proud Americans to watch them come in today and take this game convincingly.
Obviously Sweden’s tournament was dealt a blow in game #1 when William Nylander was knocked out of the tourney by an illegal Swiss check. Sweden gave a good showing overall, winning their group and a quarterfinal game.
Gold Medal Game
The marquee matchup today features a border war between host Finland and neighbor Russia. Finland was part of Russia until 100 years ago and there is no love lost between the two. This WJC will see one team win gold for the second time in the last five years. There have been five different winners the last five tournaments. Russia won in Buffalo in 2011, a tournament I attended, while Finland won in 2014 in Malmö, Sweden.
Russia started Ilya Samsonov in goal for the semifinal to the surprise of many. Russia won the game and now for the Gold they start Alexander Georgiev, who played the bulk of the action for Russia in the tournament, 4 games played to Samsonov’s 2. Finland sticks with Kaapo Kahkonen, who came into the Quarterfinal in relief and won the Quarter- and Semi-final games.
The first period had mostly even play, but Kahkonen cleared the puck over the glass and took a penalty, which Russia capitalized on. Kamenev got the opening goal.
The second period was uneventful. Russia took two penalties, but the Finns could not convert on the powerplay.
The third period was high excitement. Patrik Laine scored :24 in for the Finns to tie it, but Russia answered right back on a Svetlakov tally. Then more than 8 minutes went by before the big line for Finland was at it again. Aho scored on a beautiful assist by Jesse Puljujarvi. About 7 minutes after that it looked like Finland had done the deed as Rantanen scored to put them up by one with only 2:09 to go. However, the Russians have been resourceful late in games and they kept that trend alive as Svetlakov scored again, this time with only 6.9 seconds left in the game to tie it at 3-3.
On to overtime we went, but we did not have to wait long for a winner as Kasperi Kapanen scored the golden goal 93 seconds in. It was a bit reminiscent of Rasmus Ristolainen’s WJC winner of 2 years ago. Kapanen had not had a great game tonight, but he more than made up for it with the wrap around tally to give the Finns the gold on home ice.
In the coming days look for player assessments on key participants at the World Juniors.
Now it is time to get to bed and head for Iceland in the morning!