POPRAD, SLOVAKIA - APRIL 23: Team USA pose for a photo with the championship trophy following a 4-2 win over team Finland in the gold medal game action at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship. (Photo by Andrea Cardin/HHOF-IIHF Images)
Finland couldn't capitalize on PP, loses 4-2
The U.S. National Team Development Program produced another emphatic victory tonight in Poprad, knocking off last year's gold medallists, 4-2.
The U.S. won their third gold in the last four U18s and seventh in the last nine, running the table with seven straight wins. Special teams were decisive.
The Americans scored one goal with the extra man and one goal short-handed while Finland was 0-for-6 with the extra man.
"Special teams are always going to set the tone for the game and 5-on-5 sets the tempo," suggested winning coach John Wroblewski. "I think we were great in all facets today. I think our 5-on-5 game was great - we got them running around in their defensive zone and they couldn’t get their forecheck going - and our special teams were outstanding as well."
More impressive, the Americans have won every top-level gold medal so far this year in IIHF competition--World Juniors, World Women's, Women's U18, and now men's U18.
"I can’t describe it," said an ebullient Braeden Tkachuk. "It’s an unbelievable feeling. We were confident we could win this and we all played well as a team. We had great coaching, and we all bought into the system and became brothers."
"Our power play didn’t work as it usually does," admitted Kristian Vesalainen, the MVP of the tournament. "They were pretty good in the first period and when they got the chance, they scored on the power play, so . . . it’s disappointing. I think we played hard to the end, but once you get behind like that, it gets really hard. It’s disappointing now, but hopefully we appreciate it later."
The victors scored early and took advantage of their chances, while the Finns floundered on the power play at several crucial moments when a goal could have made a difference.
Point in case, the opening goal came at 3:51 moments after a U.S. penalty had expired. Braedan Tkachuk made a sensational play on the goal. He stripped Aleksi Anttalainen of the puck along the boards in the Finnish end and fired a great pass to Josh Norris who snapped a shot in for the early lead.
The U.S. made it 2-0 at 16:47 thanks again to great hustle by the set-up man. This time Jacob Tortora got on a loose puck behind the Finnish goal, over-skated the puck, went back for it, and it one motion made a backhanded pass to Joel Farabee, who made no mistake.
To make matters worse, the Americans made it 3-0 early in the third scoring short-handed. Logan Cockerill made a cheeky drop pass on a two-on-two rush and Farabee finished the play nicely.
Suomi got one back thanks to a quick point shot from Eemeli Rasanen that found the back of the net, but four minutes later the U.S. upped the count to 4-1 on a power play, their first of the night. Grant Mismash finished a nice pass from Quinton Hughes for the goal.
The Finns made it 4-2 on a crazy play. With Luukkonen on the bench early for a sixth Finnish attacker, St. Cyr came out to play the puck in front of his net looking to score. Unfortunately, he hit the oncoming Urho Vaakanainen. The puck bounced in, and with less than four minutes to go, the Finns has a sliver of hope.
“Yeah, I was a little selfish there," St. Cyr confessed. "If it happened again I probably wouldn’t do it, but yeah, I did go for it."
Luukkonen came to the bench soon after, but the Finns could get no closer.