Magazine Musings: U.S. 4, Finland 1

Five Takeaways From The Big New Year's Eve Victory Over Finland

Here are five takeaways from the United States’ fourth and final preliminary game of the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship. The U.S. defeated Finland, 4-1, on Monday at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, B.C.


Prime Time Primeau

Cayden Primeau got the starting nod in goal and held his ground early to give the U.S. offense time to get untracked.

 

The Voorhees, N.J., native made seven of his 28 saves in the opening frame, and looked sharp tracking pucks through the net front traffic. 

 

The only blemish on Primeau’s night came with 6:44 left in the game on a deflection off the stick of Jesse Ylonen.

 

Another strong effort between the pipes by the Northeastern Huskie, who beat Kazakhstan, 8-2, makes it a tough decision for coach Mike Hastings on who will get the starting nod in Wednesday’s quarterfinal matchup.

                         

Intensity Rising

The first half of the opening period was a typical defensive clash between these two defensive stalwarts. The U.S. did a good job of blocking shots and creating a perimeter wall in front of Primeau to keep the crafty Finland forwards out of high-danger areas.

 

After falling behind in its previous game against Sweden, the Americans were determined to start strong and finally capitalized on a Finnish turnover late in the period as Jason Robertson buried a wrist shot with 10 seconds left in the opening frame.

 

The U.S. never took its foot off the gas, adding a pair of goals in the second period and an insurance marker in the third to provide Primeau with more than enough offensive support.

 

Sensational Special Teams

Special teams have been a strength for the U.S. throughout the preliminary round. Tyler Madden notched a power-play goal, his second goal of the game, as the U.S. went 1-for-5 with the man advantage.

 

The penalty killing unit continued to shine, halting all three Finnish chances with the man advantage. Two of those chances came in the first period when the score was still untouched, with Phil Kemp and Mattias Samuelsson in particular sacrificing their bodies to minimize pucks to Primeau.

 

Following group play, both power play efficiency and penalty kill success rate stand atop the tournament leaderboard. The U.S. has scored on six of its 17 power plays (35.3%) so far, and is the only team to not surrender a short-handed goal.

 

Culminating Chemistry

One of the biggest keys to a team having success in a short tournament is their ability to build chemistry on the ice and in the locker room.

 

The Americans look in sync and ready to get down to business as they head into the elimination portion of the tournament. Jason Robertson has fit in well on a line with Joel Farabee and Josh Norris. Ryan Poehling, who scored his fifth goal and leads the tournament with eight points, has benefitted from being on a line with offensive wizard Oliver Wahlstrom.

 

Tyler Madden added two goals and has been a boon for the power play as well. If the team is able to stay in sync, they’re going to be tough to beat. Jack Hughes, listed day-to-day with an injury that forced him to miss the last three contests, is close to returning.

 

Containing The Czechs

The U.S. meet a familiar foe when the face off against the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals. The two nations met last year in the bronze-medal game in Buffalo with the U.S. skating off with a 9-3 victory thanks to four goals from Trent Frederic and one off the stick of Poehling.

 

This year’s Czech squad (1-1-0-2, 5 points) features considerable star power with forwards Martin Necas, Martin Kaut and Filip Zadina, and more depth than they’ve had in recent years. They topped the Swiss, 2-1, in overtime in their first matchup, lost to Russia and Canada, 2-1 and 5-1, respectively, and beat Denmark, 4-0.

 

They came into the tournament as a medal contender and will be looking for revenge when the puck drops Wednesday  night at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre in Victoria, B.C. Catch all the action on NHL Network starting at 8 p.m. (Eastern time)

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