Team USA breezed through the preliminary round of the 2016 IIHF U18 World Championship with four wins, then won their quarterfinal match against the Czech Republic by an 8-0 count. The stage seemed to be set for the USA to once again play for U18 gold, this time in front of a home crowd in Grand Forks, ND.
Instead, Finland scuttled those plans by defeating the U.S. by a 4-2 score in what was an evenly played affair, and certainly the most difficult game the U.S. competed in at this year’s tournament. The win sends Finland into the gold medal game against their neighbor and archrival, Sweden, after the Swedes defeated Canada in the second semi-final game.
A penalty assessed to Clayton Keller with just 1:02 left in the third period of a 2-2 game provided the opening that the Finns needed to take both the lead and the win. Aapeli Rasanen scored with just 37.9 seconds left to give Finland the 3-2 lead, then Jesse Puljujarvi desposited the puck into the empty USA net as the buzzer sounded to provide the final 4-2 margin.
Scoring goals for the USA in their semi-final loss were Kieffer Bellows and Kailer Yamamoto, whose power play goal with 4:27 left in the third period evened the score at 2.
U.S. goaltender Joseph Woll stopped 22 of the 25 shots that he faced (the 26th Finnish shot was Puljujarvi’s empty net goal). Woll has played well in this tournament, posting a 1.34 goals-against average and .947 save percentage, but a determined Finnish sqaud ended up being more than Woll and his teammates could overcome.
Woll and defenseman Chad Krys met with the media after the semi-final loss, with their comments being included in this Hockey’s Future video.
USA head coach Danton Cole provided his comments following the loss to Finland, which can be viewed below.
Highlights from the USA-Finland semi-final game can be viewed below.
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