Sasha Chmelevski (Northville, Mich./Ottawa 67’s) and Josh Norris (Oxford, Mich./University of Michigan) scored and Cayden Primeau (Voorhees, N.J./Northeastern University) turned aside 28 shots but the U.S. National Junior Team fell to Finland, 3-2, in the gold-medal game of the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship.
"We knew from day one that this group had something special, and even though we didn't play the perfect game, it was almost enough," said Mike Hastings, head coach of the 2019 U.S. National Junior Team. "There's no doubt this stings, especially with the way we came back from a two-goal deficit, but there's a lot this group can be proud of in helping the United States earn a fourth-straight medal in this tournament. These players earned a medal for our country and it won't be their last. This is the future of USA Hockey and I think I speak for our nation when I say we're excited to see these players one day represent our country again and I have no doubt they'll one day bring gold home."
Team USA's (5-0-1-1/W-OTW-OTL-L) silver-medal finish continues its unprecedented medal streak in tournament play after winning gold in 2017 and earning bronze-medal finishes in 2016 and 2018. The U.S. now has 12 medals in tournament play, including four gold medals (2004, 2010, 2013, 2017), two silver medals (1997, 2019) and six bronze medals (1986, 1992, 2007, 2011, 2016, 2018).
Following the game, Ryan Poehling (Lakeville, Minn./St. Cloud State University) was named Tournament MVP and earned the Directorate Award as Best Forward, finishing with five goals and three assists. In Team USA's 5-4 preliminary overtime loss to Sweden, Poehling led a four-goal comeback with an assist and a natural hat trick in the final 10:26 of regulation. Following its semifinal win over Russia yesterday, Poehling, captain Mikey Anderson (Roseville, Minn./University of Minnesota Duluth) and forward Jason Robertson (Northville, Mich./Niagara IceDogs) were tabbed Team USA's Top Three Players of the Tournament.
The game opened with both teams generating chances in search of the opening goal. Primeau stymied Samuli Vainionpaa twice in front, stopping seven shots in the first half of the frame before a pair of U.S. powerplays nearly saw the U.S. go up, 1-0.
On the first man-advantage, it appeared Oliver Wahlstrom (Quincy, Mass./Boston College) scored 9:45 into the game when he scooped up a loose puck above the crease and buried it over the leg of Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen. The goal was waved off on the ice, however, stating a U.S. player was in the crease illegally. After a review, the call on the ice of no goal stood.
With under seven minutes left in the period and the U.S. on its second powerplay, Chmelevski saw an opportunity go just wide when his chance off a backdoor pass from Poehling sailed to the left of goal. Poehling had a good opportunity of his own moments later to the right of goal while Quinn Hughes (Orlando, Fla./University of Michigan) let go a shot from the high slot that was denied.
In the closing minutes of the frame, Primeau made a big save on Finland forward Eeli Tolvanen to keep the game scoreless entering the first intermission.
The middle stanza opened with the U.S. pushing the pace through its speed and transition game.
Back-to-back powerplays saw the U.S. seize control of possession. Team USA's best chance on the man-advantage came when Poehling took a pass from Jack Hughes (Orlando, Fla./U.S. National Under-18 Team), spun and ripped a shot that was blockered away.
Halfway through the period, Logan Cockerill (Brighton, Mich./Boston University) had a chance, flying down the wing and creating an opportunity that wouldn't go.
With 8:29 left in the middle frame, Jesse Ylonen gave Finland a 1-0 lead when he one-timed a slapshot from the top left circle that beat a screened Primeau high glove-side.
Both teams traded man-advantage opportunities in the closing minutes but neither were able to convert. Cockerill and Mattias Samuelsson (Voorhees, N.J./Western Michigan University) had notable blocks for the U.S., while Primeau turned aside a re-direction from Sami Moilanen.
In the final stanza, Finland doubled its lead, 2-0, six minutes into the frame when Latvala released a shot from the point that went off the post and in.
The U.S. answered just a minute later as Chmelevski converted on a tough-angle shot. The play started with Chmelevski dropping the puck to Jack Hughes for a shot that was deflected. The bouncing rebound fell to Chmelevski below the left faceoff dot for a spin-around one-timer that beat and out-of-position Luukkonen.
Team USA converted again, 1:46 later, when Josh Norris (Oxford, Mich./University of Michigan) one-timed a shot from the right faceoff dot. Chmelevski was again behind the play, this time picking the puck up in the offensive zone, freezing the defenders and threading a pass through traffic to Norris for the equalizing goal.
With the U.S. surging, Jack Hughes had a breakaway that was stuffed by Luukkonen, while a Wahlstrom shot was also denied.
Shots were even at 26-26 with seven minutes left and the game tied 2-2. With regulation winding down, Finland took the lead with 1:26 remaining as Kaapo Kakko jumped on a loose puck alongside the net after a shot from the point off the stick of Anton Lundell.
Primeau vacated the net with 65 seconds left as the U.S. put a sixth skater on to try and equalize late but were unable to score to tie the game. Primeau finished with 28 saves in the loss.
NOTES: Forward Sasha Chmelevski was tabbed U.S. Player of the Game ... The U.S. was outshot by Finland, 31-28, went 0-for-5 on the power play and 2-for-3 on the penalty kill. For complete game statistics, click here … John Vanbiesbrouck (Detroit, Mich.), assistant executive director of hockey operations for USA Hockey, is serving as the general manager of the U.S. National Junior Team ... Poehling is just the fourth-ever U.S. player to earn Tournament MVP honors after Zach Parise (2004), John Gibson (2010) and Casey Mittelstadt (2018) ... For more information about the tournament, click here.