A great second period by Finland’s third line helped give the home team the 2-1 victory over Sweden, advancing to the gold medal game at the 2016 World Juniors.
Two years ago when the tournament was in Sweden, the Tre Kronor looked like the best team in the World Juniors. With a stacked roster, there was no way they were going to lose to a Finnish team that was plagued with injuries. That, of course, didn’t prove to be the case, with the Finns beating their arch rivals from Sweden to take the 2014 World Junior championships, a surprise medal that they didn’t expect to win heading into the tournament.
Now, on Finnish soil, Sweden hoped to change things for the better in the semi-finals. Finland had a few solid scoring chances early in the contest, but the first goal would be handed to the visiting team. Dimytro Timashov would give Sweden the 1-0 lead after using his speed to power through into the Finnish zone with the puck. He’d make a quick move in the left corner before making a pass in front to Rasmus Asplund, who was in a good spot to tap in the puck and beat Kaapo Kähkönen at the doorstep to make it 1-0.
Heading into the game, half of Finland’s goals in the tournament came from their top line of Patrik Laine, Jesse Puljujärvi and Sebastian Aho. The team needed some extra hope, and that’s exactly what would happen with their first goal of the game. Mid-way through the period, Mikko Rantanen would make a tremendous spin pass from the goal line, finding Roope Hintz in front of the net to tie the game up at one apiece.
The Finns would take the 2-1 lead after 13 minutes of play in the third. Anton Karlsson would give the Finns the power play after getting called on a questionable hit to the head penalty, earning him two minutes plus an extra ten for the hit. On the ensuing Finnish power play, Antti Kalapudas would give his team the advantage after taking a pass from Kasperi Kapanen in the corner, firing it past a screened Linus Söderström for the 2-1 goal.
Sweden’s third period couldn’t have been worse. With just one shot in the final ten minutes, the Tre Kronor did nothing to challenge the Finns, who held on long enough to take the 2-1 victory in one of the most exciting games of the World Juniors.
With the win, Finland will battle against the winner of the USA/Russia game for the gold medal on Tuesday at 1:30 pm EST. Sweden will meet with the loser of the other semi-final game earlier in the morning, a 9:00 am EST start for a chance at bronze.
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