It was just three short months ago that Finland celebrated a home-ice, gold medal win at the 2016 IIHF World Junior Championship. That country can now make room in the trophy case for more gold as Team Finland defeated archrival Sweden by a 6-1 score to win the 2016 IIHF U18 World Championship.
While the Finns did not finish atop Group B in the preliminary round of the tournament, they were the best team in the playoff round as they defeated the team that some thought would take the gold – Team USA – then polished off Sweden in convincing fashion in the gold medal game.
It didn’t take long for Finland to assume the lead against Sweden as, just 1:15 into the first period, Eeli Tolvanen netted his seventh goal of the tournament to give the Finns the 1-0 lead. Finland upped their lead a little over 14 minutes later when Otto Somppi fired the puck from the right of the Sweden net past Sweden starting goalie Filip Gustavsson to make it 2-0.
But the Finns weren’t done with their first period scoring blitz as, just 51 seconds after the Somppi goal, Eetu Tuulola gained control of the puck behind the Sweden net, swung around the left side of the net and deposited the puck behind Gustavsson to make the score 3-0 for Finland.
Shots after the first period were lopsided in favor of Finland by a 14-3 margin.
The situation improved only slightly for Sweden in the second period. They did outshoot Finland in the second frame by a 12-9 margin, but Finland added to their lead with 8:59 left when Jesse Puljujarvi took a pass from Janne Kuokkanen, skated between two Swedish defenders near the Sweden blueline, then beat Gustavsson for the 4-0 lead.
Sweden did get that one back exactly one minute later when Lias Andersson took a pass along the right wall in the Finland zone and surprised Finnish goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen with a wrist shot that found the left side of the net, making the score 4-1.
Shots after two periods still favored Finland by a 23-12 count.
Finland locked it down in a third period that turned into the Jesse Puljujarvi Showcase, with the big winger and 2016 prospect showing why he is so highly regarded for this year’s draft. In concert with linemates Kuokkanen and Somppi, Puljujarvi netted two more goals to earn the hat trick while extending Finland’s lead to the final score of 6-1.
Shots for the period were 11-3 in Finland’s favor, as was the game count of 34-18.
Puljujarvi met with the media after his country’s gold medal victory, with his comments via interpreter being included in this Hockey’s Future video. Also included are some sights and sounds from Finland’s postgame celebration.
Highlights from the Finland-Sweden game can be viewed below.
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