Team Finland recorded their second-consecutive victory and their third-straight game with a point (from ‘Nyman has goal and assist as Finland blanks Latvia 3-0 at world juniors,’ Toronto Star, 12/29/22) after a dominating 3-0 win over Team Latvia on Thursday afternoon to reclaim the top spot in Group B. The win now sets up an epic showdown with the reigning silver medalist Finland and the United States on New Year’s Eve.
In a tournament full of parity, Finland has managed to secure seven points through the first three games of the World Junior Championship. The overtime loss to Switzerland in the tournament opener now seems like a great salvaged point instead of a colossal collapse in Moncton.
Related: Guide to The 2023 World Junior Championship
With just one game remaining in the group stage, the Finns set themselves up nicely to secure the top spot in Group B if they capture a win against the Americans. Latvia’s shootout loss to Switzerland secured a point for the Latvians, leaving Group B the only group in the tournament where each team has netted a point. Here are three takeaways from Finland’s dominant win.
Jani Lampinen Is the Only Choice in Goal
The 19-year-old netminder has established himself as the obvious choice in goal for Finland. He earned his second-straight start and became the only goalie on the roster to start multiple games to begin the tournament, and he has performed well with a 2-0 record.
Through both his starts of the tournament, Lampinen has secured a .964 save percentage and has a goals-against average of one despite allowing two goals in a 5-2 win over Slovakia in his first start of the tournament. He has continued his hot start to his 2022-23 season that began in Finland with Kiekko-Espoo.
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Moving forward in the tournament, Finland should stay with Lampinen in goal until he falters. The Finns will have stiff competition for the remainder of the tournament as the matchup with Team USA concludes group play before the elimination round begins.
Finland Defense Gets Involved in Scoring
Finland received three points from defensemen in their win against Latvia on Thursday, with two of those points coming from Otto Salin. The Los Angeles Kings’ fifth-round pick tallied two assists in the contest to add two points to his tournament total.
In six games, the 18-year-old went without a point in the August World Junior Championship but already has three through Finland’s first three contests. The 5-11 defenceman plays in Finland’s top professional league with HIFK and has six points through 23 games.
Aleksi Malinen also notched an assist on Finland’s first goal of the game against Latvia. The sixth-round pick by the New York Islanders captured two goals in eight games in the 2022 World Junior Championship. He’s on loan from JYP in Liiga and is currently playing with KeuPa HT in the Mestis league.
In a Position to Win
With points in all three games, Finland has placed itself right where everyone thought they would be at the beginning of the tournament, and that is toward the top of Group B. One more point virtually guarantees a spot in the knockout stage, even after a loss to Switzerland.
Finland’s group has proven to be the more difficult of the two at the 2023 WJC. Team Sweden and Team Czechia sit atop Group A after Czechia’s stunning win over Team Canada in the tournament opener. However, the Canadians will look to bounce back in their home nation.
Canada still has games against Austria (who has yet to secure a point) and a showdown with a Sweden team who will be playing to secure the top spot in Group A when they meet Team Canada on New Year’s Eve. Finland can rest easy knowing that even if they drop the game against the U.S., they will enter the second round of competition.