Finland 2, Sweden 1
New York (The Draft Analyst) – Antii Kalapudas scored the go-ahead goal in the second period as Finland advanced to the title game in the world junior hockey championship for the second time in three years, beating rival Sweden 2-1 on Monday.
The Finns will meet either Russia or the United States in Tuesday’s gold medal game. The United States advanced to the semifinals after beating the Czech Republic 7-0, while Russia rallied to defeat Denmark in overtime, 4-3.
Sweden was in control of the game and took a 1-0 lead into the second period, but Finland gained momentum following a string of power play opportunities. Finland took the lead for good when Kalapudas got the puck just inside the right faceoff circle and beat goalie Linus Soderstrom with a wrist shot with 6:56 left in the second period. It was the first time Sweden trailed at any point of their six tournament games.
The Finns tied the score at one earlier in the frame just as a minor penalty to Sweden’s Adrian Kempe had expired. Roope Hintz, a Dallas Stars prospect, converted a centering feed from Mikko Rantanen right on Soderstrom’s doorstep with 8:52 to go in the second.
Sweden (5-1) cruised through the preliminary round to win Group A and trounced Slovakia in the quarterfinals, but managed only
Rasmus Asplund opened the scoring for Sweden with 9:43 left in the first period. Asplund, one of Sweden’s top prospects for the 2016 NHL draft who filled in after teammate William Nylander was knocked out of the tournament with an apparent head injury, tapped a backhand feed from Dmytro Timashov past Finnish goalie Kaapo Kahkonen for a 1-0 lead.
Rantanen, who the Colorado Avalanche selected in the first round in last June’s draft, and Kasperi Kapanen each had two assists. Star prospects Jesse Puljujarvi and Patrik Laine were held without a point for the first time in the competition.
Kahkonen finished with 21 saves. Soderstrom made 26 stops in defeat but made several key saves to keep the game close.
C CHRISTOFFER EHN (Detroit 4th/2014): A speedy checker who was relegated to the fourth line the entire tournament, Ehn had several chances in limited time but didn’t score. He’s struggling to put up points for Frolunda, where he’s also used in a depth role. But he’s got good size and excellent speed, which makes him a very good option to single-handedly carry the puck into the offensive zone. It looked like he had a good tournament considering the way he was used.
RW DMYTRO TIMASHOV (Toronto 5th/2015): Timashov never missed a beat after William Nylander went down in the opener, and against Finland, he was leaned on to be the guy to make plays out of nothing. He made a gorgeous backhand pass to the side of the net for a wide-open Rasmus Asplund to slam home. But where we were most impressed was the manner in which he controlled the puck in tight spaces and avoided painting himself into a corner. The kid is the complete package once you get him into the offensive zone, as he can take punishment and still emerge with the puck with some room to work with.
C RASMUS ASPLUND (2016 Draft eligible/1997): His quest for gold may be over, but Asplund did his part and then some after being one of the younger Swedish players on the roster. He was supposed to be a bottom-six two-way center for Sweden in the tournament, but it would shock us if Asplusnd doesn’t return to Farjestad and anchor one of its top two lines. He scored another goal today – that’s four in six games – after being the beneficiary of a gorgeous set-up from Timashov.
C MIKKO RANTANEN (Colorado 1st/2015): You couldn’t have scripted it any better from a coach’s point of view: top line gets shut down, second and third lines carry the play. Rantanen was surprisingly flying under the radar thanks to the Puljujarvi-Laine show, as he was far from the dominant player he was at last year’s event. But one thing you can always count on Reantatnen for is strong board play and using his size – both which came into play on the two goals he set up. He had his head up when he curled and fired a pass to Roope Hintz for his tap-in, and made as heady a play you can when he dished to Kalapudas from behind the net, then set up the screen on the eventual game-winner. Rantanen also made another nice set-up to Hintz which Linus Soderstrom smothered and took a nudge into the Finnish bench from Jens Looke. It was his best game of the tournament thus far.
LW KASPERI KAPANEN (Toronto): Kapanen’s been excellent since the tournament began, as he’s shown speed, vision, strength and tenacity. He’s always been the kind of player where he can go stretches without being noticed, but playing a support role to Finland’s ridiculous top line of Patrik Laine-Sebastian Aho-Jesse Puljujarvi has served him well. He’ll likely never be a star, but his time in the American Hockey League with the Toronto Marlies has certainly helped him develop into a useful winger with a lot more skill than your average depth player.
RW JESSE PULJUJARVI (2016 Draft eligible/1998): Sweden was clearly determined to shut down Finland’s top line at even strength, and it actually paid dividends as they were in control of the game until the unforced penalties were called. Puljujarvi showed flashes of speed and strength, but he was kept to the outside and his timing was a hair off. His best chance came during a 2-on-1 break when Aho feathered a pass for a one-timer which Puljujarvi shanked. Still, he’s having a memorable tournament which hopefully gets him going for Karpat when he returns to Liiga action.
RW PATRIK LAINE (2016 Draft eligible/1998): Laine pulled a Joe Namath before the game by guaranteeing a win over the Swedes, but he was more of a passenger once the puck dropped. He was deliberate with the puck during cycles, and it’s impressive how he can curl away from the wall into one of the circles, cocked and ready for a one-timer. Nevertheless, he had only one shot on goal in his only weak game of the competition, which says a lot because the Finns controlled play for the last two periods and still won without contributions from its best line. Still, Laine has had an outstanding tournament, and his most recent international numbers are staggering – he has 14 goals in 12 games between last April’s U18’s and the U20’s.