Prospect Ramblings: Finns stun U.S. in IIHF semi-final (April 19)

Mark Allan

2016-04-23

The stubborn Finns refused to submit to the Americans, upsetting their hosts 4-2 Saturday in the first of two semi-finals final at Grand Forks, North Dakota, in the IIHL Under18 hockey championship tournament.

Center Aapeli Rasanen, who scored twice, potted the winning goal with 37 seconds left to thwart the two-time defending USA and move into a tie for eighth place among the tournament’s top-10 scorers.

Heading into the semi-finals, the Americans and Canadians were first or second in scoring, power-play scoring, penalty-killing and goaltending as well as trailing only Latvia in PIMs, making a Canada-USA championship matchup likely.

Until the plucky Finns rewrote the script.

There was plenty of semi-final drama in the final five minutes at the Ralph Engelstad Arena.

After earlier goals by Urho Vaakanainen for the Finns and Kieffer Bellows for the Americans, Rasanen stunned the pro-USA crowd with a shorthanded goal with just 4:49 to play. Undaunted, the high-scoring Americans drew even on a tip-in by Kailer Yamamoto just 1:22 later.
In yet another OMG moment, U.S. star Clayton Keller tripped explosive Finnish forward Jesse Puljujarvi in the U.S. end with just 1:02 showing on the clock. Smelling blood with the man advantage, Rasanen whipped in the winning goal on a rebound with a mere 37 seconds left in regulation. Puljujarvi, the 2015 tournament MVP, drove the final nail in the USA coffin with a buzzer-beating empty-netter.

 

The high-powered USA offense was too much for the Swedes earlier in the 2016 IIHF Under18 world championship, although Finland stunned the host Americans 4-2 in a semi-final:

 

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Finland will face the winner of the Canada-Sweden semi-final for the gold medal Sunday. The USA, which drubbed the Czech Republic 8-0 in a quarter-final, will meet the loser of the other semi-final for bronze.
While the 4-2 result is a triumph for the shorthanded Finns (using just 18 players compared to 20 Americans), it’s a bitter pill to swallow for the Americans, who outscored their opponents 38-4 entering the semi-finals.
Maybe last year’s 2-1 OT loss to the U.S. was the rehearsal Finland needed to win a 2016 rematch in spite of top goalie Leevi Laakso being too ill to play as well as captain Juuso Valimaki.
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