EDMONTON, Alberta -- Arthur Kaliyev (Staten Island, N.Y.) scored the game-winner with 1:16 left in regulation to lift the U.S. National Junior Team to a hard fought 4-3 victory over Finland tonight in the semifinals of the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship.
With the win, Team USA will play in tomorrow’s (Jan. 5) gold-medal game against host Canada. Opening faceoff is set for 9:30 p.m. ET and the game can be seen live on NHL Network.
“It was a great hockey game, and hats off to Finland for being a great team,” said head coach Nate Leaman (East Greenwich, R.I.). “We showed a lot of mental toughness, when they tied it up our playmakers went out and made a great play to win the game. We’re very happy to be playing for gold tomorrow.”
The teams traded first period goals. Team USA got on the board first at 12:39 when Alex Turcotte (Chicago, Ill.) dug the puck out from between his skates at the side of the net and beat Kari Piiroinen after Arthur Kaliyev’s (Staten Island, N.Y.) shot from the slot deflected off him. Brock Faber (Maple Grove, Minn.) also drew an assist on the play. Finland capitalized on a tic-tac-toe passing play on the power play just more than two minutes later to tie the game with Kasper Simontaival converting from just above the crease. The U.S. had a few good scoring chances that Piiroinen stopped, including one by Cole Caufield (Stevens Point, Wis.) just 26 seconds into the contest and another by Trevor Zegras (Bedford, N.Y) from the bottom of the left circle with 3:45 left in the period. Spencer Knight (Darien, Conn.) made 11 saves for the U.S., including important back-to-back stops in the waning seconds of the period.
The game remained tied until late in the second period. Shortly after the U.S. killed off a Finland power play, John Farinacci (Red Bank, N.J.) beat Piiroinen on a breakaway on the blocker side at 15:53 to give the U.S. the lead. The play started off a highlight-reel up-ice pass by Jackson LaCombe (Eden Prairie, Minn.) from just inside the U.S. defensive blueline. On the shift following the goal, Boldy drew a four-minute high-sticking penalty, and the U.S. capitalized :39 later with Boldy deflecting home a shot from Trevor Zegras (Bedford, N.Y.) in the slot at 17:00. Caufield also gained an assist on the play. Knight stopped all seven shots he faced in the period, including two on the Finland power play.
Team USA nearly took a 4-1 lead just :11 into the third period when Caufield hit the post. Finland got within a goal at 11:38 of the third when Simontaival tallied his second of the contest and then tied the game on the power play as Roni Hirvonen put home a rebound at the goal mouth with 3:43 left in regulation. That set the stage for Kaliyev’s heroics as he wristed one home from the slot over the glove of Piiroinen with just 1:16 to go. Turcotte and Jake Sanderson (Whitefish, Mont.) drew assists on the play. In the closing seconds, Boldy laid down to block a slap shot in the slot and help preserve the win. Knight made 15 saves in the final period and 33 total in the contest for his fourth victory of the tournament.
NOTES: Arthur Kaliyev, with the game-winning goal and an assist, was named the U.S. Player of the Game … Team USA was 1-2 on the power play, while Finland was 2-5 … Finland outshot the U.S. by a 36-26 count …. The U.S. has played in six previous gold-medal games in the IIHF World Junior Championship and won four of those six contests (2017, 2013, 2010, 2004). Team USA also gained the silver medal in 2019 and 1997 … The U.S. and Canada have met four times in the gold-medal game with Team USA winning three of those contests.