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2021 World Juniors recap & highlights: A border battle looms for the Americans after beating Finland

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It wasn’t pretty, but the Americans survived a dangerous Finnish team and will now play for the gold medal.

United States v Finland: Semifinals - 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

With a trip to the Gold Medal Game against Canada on the line, the United States clashed with Finland in the second semi-final game of the day. The Finns were riding a huge wave after Roni Hirvonen shocked the Swedes with a game winning goal in the quarterfinals with with 25 seconds left on the clock. Led by Anton Lundell and Topi Niemela, the Finns slowly found their legs across the tournament, forcing their way into medal contention.

The Americans were led by arguably the tournament MVP in Trevor Zegras, whose 15 points were leading the tournament heading into the semi-finals. Beyond that the depth of the forward core was key in helping pace the Americans past the Slovaks in the quarterfinal, and their dominant run towards the medal round after losing to Russia on opening night.

Spencer Knight got the call in net once again for the United States, while the Finns countered with Kari Piiroinen.

The Americans nearly struck within the opening minute of the game with Matthew Beniers finding a narrow gap to feed a pass through to Cole Caufield, who was denied in a net-front pileup. Trevor Zegras followed that up by firing a heavy slap shot wide of the Finnish net, allowing the Finns to counter, but they were stymied quickly by the glove hand of Spencer Knight. Zegras wasn’t quite done early on though, as he attempted to pull off the famous Michigan from behind the Finnish net, but lost control of the puck as he brought it off the ice.

While both sides clogged up the dangerous areas, and the goalies kept the rebounds to a minimum it wasn’t long before the game finally had a goal. Arthur Kaliyev collected a pass from Brock Faber, and Kaliyev held the puck for a moment, then fired a low hard shot that bounced around the front of the net. Alex Turcotte kicked it to his stick and managed to shovel it into the back of the net, putting the Americans up by a goal with around seven minutes to play.

The lead was not one that lasted long, as a Sam Colangelo slashing penalty put Finland on the game’s first power play. A beautiful tic-tac-toe passing play from Ville Heinola to Kasper Puutio and finally to Kasper Simontaival for the tap in tied the game at a goal apiece.

The Americans didn’t help their own case, with the goal-scorer Alex Turcotte taking a tripping penalty with two and a half minutes left to play in the opening period. The power play didn’t create much until the dying seconds, when a screened shot was pushed away by Spencer Knight, who then had to blocker away the follow up chance from Jusso Parssinen to keep it tied heading into the first intermission.

A heavy Finnish forecheck, and a menacing neutral zone presence kept the Americans from finding any sort of rhythm in the second period. In that same time Finland continued to widen their shot advantage, doubling up the US total with just over six minutes played. The Americans did grow back into the game, but many of their looks were one and done, with the Finns clamping down on any second chances around their net.

An interference call on Henry Thrun put the Finns back on the power play just past the midway point of the second period, putting the US in a precarious spot. Kasper Puutio was an absolute menace low in the US zone, testing Spencer Knight multiple times, forcing the American goalie into a number of big saves to kill off the penalty and keep the game tied at one.

Jackson LaCombe sparked the US to their second goal, collecting a puck at his own blue line, and rifled an incredible lead pass ahead to John Farinacci. Farinacci collected the pass, broke in alone, and fired his shot by Kari Piiroinen to put the Americans back into the lead.

The Finns immediately put themselves in a deep hole, with Aku Raty high-sticking Matt Boldy near his eye, putting the US on a four minute power play. It didn’t take long for the Americans to make them pay, as Cole Caufield zipped a pass to Trevor Zegras who in turn put a pass right on Boldy’s stick for an easily re-directed goal and a two goal Team USA lead. The American power play continued it’s relentless assault, and were lucky to end the period only having surrendered a single goal on the four minute power play.

Team USA nearly made it a three goal advantage right off the opening face-off of the third period, but Cole Caufield’s shot went high over the net, off the glass and out of play. Even as Anton Lundell circled the US net trying to find an opening, Spencer Knight kept his cool and denied the Finnish captain a goal. However, a delay of game call on Cole Caufield put the Americans in a tough spot, and the Finns on a massive power play in the third period.

A strong Finnish advantage couldn’t break down a stout American defensive effort on the power play, and the US managed to keep their lead intact as Caufield’s penalty expired. The Finns did finally find another goal, with another tic-tac-toe passing play putting the puck onto the stick of Kasper Simontaival who fired it by a lunging Knight to bring Finland back within a goal.

After a trip on John Farinacci went uncalled, the Americans fired another puck out of play, putting Finland back on the power play with just under five minutes left in regulation. This time the Finns made it count, with Roni Hirvonen managing to just chip it under the blocker of Spencer Knight, tying the game with just over three minutes left to play and the Americans back on their heels.

With overtime seemingly looming the Americans found a late goal of their own thanks in big part to Alex Turcotte and Trevor Zegras. Zegras worked the puck in deep, just missing an open Arthur Kaliyev, but Turcotte picked up the errant pass, and put it right on Kaliyev’s stick. The Kings draft pick loaded up, and blistered the shot by the Finnish netminder to make it a 4-3 game for the US.

A massive shot block in the dying seconds by Drew Helleson secured the win for Team USA, and a massive game for the gold medal with Canada tomorrow night.

After the game the teams announced their three best players, as voted on by their teammates, with Finland selecting Anton Lundell, Mikko Kokkonen and Ville Heinola.

Meanwhile the Americans had no surprises in their picks, with Spencer Knight, Cam York, and Trevor Zegras being named as their three best players.