Americans re-claim gold
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.