Montreal Canadiens: USA Pushes Past Finland 4-3 For Gold Medal Berth


The undefeated Americans faced the Finns on Thursday afternoon, hanging in the balance is a ticket to the World Junior Championship's gold medal berth.

Team USA has been firing on all cylinders, and their depth has been their ultimate strength. Finland has been really good, but the difference in skill between the two countries is noticeable. Don't let that fool you though; the Finns are in this position for a reason.

Trey Augustine has been a stud for the Americans, which hasn't played into Jacob Fowler's favour. But at the end of the day, USA is a win away from playing for a gold medal. Finland will come out flying and the American's will need to weather that and play their game.

Here are my 24 thoughts on the American-Finland semi-finals matchup.

First Period

Finland jumped out to a 1-0 lead, less than two minutes into the period. Sam Rinzel made an awful turnover inches from the front of his net. Tomi Mannisto grabbed the loose puck and hit Trey Augustine with a shot, Oiva Keskinen jumped on the rebound and made no mistake.

Lane Hutson was chugging along real nicely to start the game, his edges looked a little stronger, and his passes, very crisp. To this point he hasn't had an offensive explosion, for his standards. I expect that he is going to hit his stride soon enough, the Americans know what kind of talent he is.

Finland, despite being outshot 9-5, has continued to nurse a 1-0 lead with the mid mark of the period approaching. Niklas Kokko has been dialled in, and the Americans haven't yet solved him. Perhaps one of the six Boston College Eagles in the lineup can crack the scoresheet.

Gord Miller said it best, the Finns are comfortable slowing the game down, so playing with a lead doesn't make the uncomfortable. They play such a cohesive game and very rarely do they make mental mistakes. They will keep coming, but they don't sacrifice defence, for offensive chances.

The Finns took advantage of a flurry of bodies in Augustine's view, tipping a point shot between the wickets. 2-0 Finland and the American's skill hasn't intimidated them at all. Rasmus Kumpulainen was credited with the second goal of the period, assisted by Samu Bau and Arttu Karki.

Down 2-0 with just over five minutes to play, the Finns are in a bit of a surprising position. USA has carried the play for much of the period. But the USA is without two of their best eligible players - Joakim Kemell and Aron Kiviharju.

Hutson danced at the blueline and tried to push back the Finnish defenders, for a screen. He also made a couple of nice passes, but the Finns defence kept any second chances away from the Americans. Very strong period for Finland, they have to be very proud of their effort.

1:09 remains and it's still 2-0 - USA could very well head to the intermission down by two goals. It's not dire time to get a tally, but the Americans certainly have the momentum swaying away from them. Finland is comfortably in the driver's seat and pushing hard for their third goal of the period, with 20 seconds to go.

Second Period

Finland's first period was all business and to be frank, the Americans are shocked by what has unfolded. I would have to believe everybody watching is in somewhat of a state of shock. Expect the Americans to make a big push coming out of the intermission.

With the sniffing salts out and the USA players making funny faces, the feeling is pretty intense for the Americans. It's all business and Team USA has controlled much of the play and had a few scoring chances. Rutger McGroarty tried to draw an early penalty but the referees didn't buy it.

Ryan Leonard and Will Smith had a great one-timer chance, but Smith blew the puck just wide. That was the American's best chance of the game so far. It's a battle of inches, so count on their opening tally to be a squeaker.

I am not being biased, but each time Hutson hops over the boards, he is making a positive puck play. His pursuit for offence is undying and he has had three of four rushes that came close. Hutson will be a large reason for a comeback if the USA can pull even.

USA leads Finland 6-0 in shots during the first seven minutes of the second frame. If not for Kokko, the Finns might be down by a goal or two, rather than still up by two goals. USA has also been flying and it feels like an American goal is on the horizon.

If frustration hasn't started to set in, then that is for one of two reasons. The American head coach is very good at communication with his players. Or the USA knows something that we don't. Either way, Kokko has had their number, despite Finland getting outplayed for the first 10 minutes of the period.

Jere Lassila is off to the box with 8:33 to go, after dominating much of the period. Jimmy Snuggerud got tripped in the offensive zone, during his pursuit to the net, giving the Americans a great chance to score. Snuggerud blasted the puck past Kokko, check the mesh for a rip. 2-1

With seven minutes to go, the USA has some momentum for their goal, in a period they have taken over. A big finish could set the stage for a massive third period. Gabe Perreault made a great feed to Will Smith and he made no mistake after getting lost behind the defence. 2-2 game with 3:42 to play.

Third Period

Again, I like to balance eight thoughts per period, but I ran out of slots before the end of the second. In the final two minutes, the Americans pushed hard for their third of the game. Fortunately for them, while they didn't score, the game stayed tied 2-2.

The first two minutes of the period were very back and forth, with both clubs trading chances. The score remained knotted at twos. 2024 draft prospect Konsta Helenius made a nice pass to Kaskimaki in pursuit of the net, and he got hooked drawing a man advantage.

Quinn Finley had a brilliant shorthanded look but hit the post. Then he fed Ryan Chesley for another quality chance from the right faceoff circle. but Kokko was square and made an easy save. The Finns also failed to record a shot on goal during their powerplay.

Kokko made a huge save on Zeev Buium, who very nearly gave the U.S. the lead. Finland got away with a couple of calls, which won't continue much longer, without results. Down to nine minutes, the next penalty of the game could prove to be a big one.

it has been a battle of the goaltenders, although they haven't made highlight-reel saves. However, that doesn't exactly tell the true story of the game; as each save was so important. It was a tight game from the first whistle and so on.

Shots are 26-16, but this game has been very competitive. Either team could make their argument for a place in the gold medal game. Finland started the tournament on a sour note, but they have come along at the right time.

Kasper Kulonummi to the sin bin for a hook, and they could have had a couple more this period. Snuggerud has a ridiculous in the game already. Cutter Gauthier played a bit off pass, then fired home a pass from Hutson. 3-2 with 3:13 to go in the period.

Perreault took a penalty for hooking, giving Finland a golden opportunity. The Americans killed it off, huge thanks to Augustine. Team USA's player of the game is Cutter Gauthier and Team Finlands was Niklas Kokko.