2021 WJC: 3 Takeaways from USA’s Tight Win Over Finland

One of the most exciting games of the tournament went down to the wire, with the United States ultimately prevailing and earning the chance to play Canada for gold. Finland fought until the very end, tying the game with under four minutes left, but the Americans found the game-winner with 1:16 on the clock to seal the victory.

A strong start from the Americans saw them jump out to a 1-0 lead late in the first, but they gave up a power-play goal minutes later to end the first frame tied. The second period belonged to the US, as the Americans had a 3-1 lead going into the final frame. The Finns continued to be a resilient group, as they managed to even the score when it seemed unlikely they would be able to do so. Finland now goes on to play Russia for the bronze medal.

Lacking Discipline

Following a strong start to the opening period, the United States took a penalty shortly after scoring their first goal. Finland capitalized on the power play and had another power-play opportunity late in the first period, but the United States managed to kill that one off to stay tied after the opening frame. The US also took multiple penalties in the third period, allowing Finland to keep hope in their comeback quest.

Allowing Finland to get back into the game on several occasions put more pressure on themselves, something the US will need to work on as they get ready to face a very strong Team Canada. Generating and keeping momentum will be key to getting a medal, and sitting in the penalty box will hurt their chances of that.

Defensemen Step Up

Aside from being very strong in their own end, the American defensemen were able to generate offense off the rush. Blueliners factored into three of the four US goals, and the team’s defensemen were critical in generating chances throughout. Brock Faber registered an assist on the first US goal, feeding Arthur Kaliyev for a shot with Alex Turcotte burying the rebound.

The second American goal was set up by Jackson LaCombe, an Anaheim Ducks prospect who had played sparingly but made an impact in the most important game of the tournament thus far. LaCombe made a perfect stretch pass to a streaking John Farinacci late in the second period to give the scorching hot forward a breakaway goal. The United States was able to use the momentum from this key goal to stretch its lead heading into a crucial third period.

Jackson Lacombe Anaheim Ducks Draft
Jackson Lacombe, Anaheim Ducks, 2019 NHL Draft (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Late in the third, the tie was broken with a goal by Arthur Kaliyev, with defenseman Jake Sanderson picking up a secondary assist. Sanderson was able to find Alex Turcotte, who had a very strong game, who found Kaliyev in the slot for the game-winning marker.

Top Scorers Swing Momentum

The Americans’ most consistent scorers throughout the tournament were just that against Finland. Arthur Kaliyev had another strong game, taking the shot that gave Alex Turcotte his rebound goal, and then scoring the game-winner with just over a minute left in the contest. Trevor Zegras was all over as he has been all tournament, adding another assist to his tournament-leading total.

Arthur Kaliyev Los Angeles Kings Draft
Arthur Kaliyev, Los Angeles Kings, 2019 NHL Draft (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The United States’ energy line was back at it again in this one, with John Farinacci following up his two-goal performance against Slovakia with another goal in this one. His breakaway goal led to a swing of momentum in the Americans’ favor, capped off by a power-play goal by Matthew Boldy minutes later.

The resilience of the Americans, particularly offensively, was one of the key takeaways from this game. While most of the talk throughout the tournament had been about how well Finland had responded to adversity, the Americans were the ones who came out on top after letting the Finns climb back into the game.

Gold Medal Preview

The United States will have its plate full when it takes on one of the most complete teams the World Juniors has ever seen. Canada has put together an absurd 41-4 goal differential through its six games thus far, including three shutouts. Goaltender Devon Levi has been one of the surprises of the tournament, and the United States will be looking to test him early and often.

The Americans will need to play a much more disciplined game than they did against Finland, and could use a little more puck luck as well. They had plenty of chances to take an even larger lead, so getting and keeping momentum will be important against Canada. No matter the result, very entertaining hockey is on the horizon.

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