RIGA, Latvia – The U.S. Men’s National Team dropped a hard-fought 2-1 decision to defending world champion Finland here tonight in the opening game for both teams at the 2021 IIHF Men’s World Championship.
"I thought the guys played really well given the short time we’ve spent together so far," said Jack Capuano, head coach of the 2021 U.S. Men's National Team. "We did a lot of good things, but their goalie played well and we couldn’t capitalize on our chances. There’s a lot of good things we can look at as we turn our attention here toward Canada tomorrow."
While Finland outshot the U.S. in the opening period, Team USA had the better scoring opportunities, including chances by Colin Blackwell (North Andover, Mass.) out front off a rebound; Eric Robinson (Bellmawr, N.J.) from between the circles whose shot rang off the crossbar; and Ryan Donato (Scituate, Mass.) alone from the side of the right circle. U.S. netminder Cal Petersen (Waterloo, Iowa) made 10 saves in the stanza, including a point-blank save of Hannes Bjorninen just more than five minutes into the contest.
Finland opened the scoring 6:54 into the middle frame when Atte Ohtamaa’s shot from the left point deflected off Brian Boyle’s stick on the way to the net and by Petersen. The Finns nearly made it 2-0 just past the mid-point of the period, but Teemu Turunen was stopped from the left dot by Petersen after making a nifty move to get free. Less than a minute after Conor Garland (Scituate, Mass.) couldn’t convert on a backhanded breakaway chance with just more than five minutes left in the stanza, Iiro Pakarinen got credit for a goal that went off Petersen’s skate and into the net. The U.S. cut the lead in half on the power play at 18:01 on a highlight reel play as Jason Robertson (Northville, Mich.) caught an off-ice pass at the offensive blueline fired by Christian Wolanin (Rochester, MIch.) from his own goal line and then ripped one between the legs of Finland netminder Jussi Olkinoura from the left circle.
Team USA made a strong push in the third period, but was unable to even the game. The U.S. had the first five shots of the stanza over the opening five minutes and a 14-5 advantage in the period. Robertson, who was named Team USA's Player of the Game, had a good chance to tie the game with 7:20 left from the side of the left circle, a play that started with a faceoff win by Trevor Moore (Thousand Oaks, Calif.), but was stopped. Tage Thompson (Orange, Conn.) nearly evened he contest with less than three minutes left, but Olkinoura made a glove save on his shot from between the circles. Team USA had good pressure with goaltender Petersen pulled in the final 1:45, but Finland held on.
The U.S. returns to action tomorrow to face arch-rival Canada. Opening faceoff is set for 1:15 p.m. ET and the game can be seen live on NHL Network.
NOTES: The U.S. outshot Finland, 30-29 … The U.S. was 1-2 on the power play, while Finland was 0-1 … The U.S. won 11-of-17 faceoffs in the first period and 11-of-19 in the third period. Finland won 14-of-17 faceoffs in the middle stanza and had a 28-25 advantage in the contest overall ... Justin Abdelkader (Muskegon, Mich.) is serving as captain of Team USA, while Colin Blackwell (North Andover, Mass.) and Matt Roy (Detroit, Mich.) are the squad’s alternate captains.