The Winter holidays are a time to spark happiness and cheer with family and friends. Its also a great time to look back at past memories, create more memories, and reflect on our good fortune.
Traditionally, the day after Christmas features the opening of the World Juniors Championship. As we celebrate the game of hockey, talented young men, between the ages of 17 and 19, are given the opportunity to lace up their skates and put on a sweater representing their country.
This year the tournament opens up in Buffalo, New York at the HSBC Aren. The United States gain home ice advantage after last year’s Gold Medal run. Sunday night Team USA battled Finland to kick off preliminary play. Its time to turn the new gifts a side and tune your T.V. to witness history in the making.
Following a back and fourth game between Russia and Canada that the Canadians escaped victorious in, the United States were given the opportunity to close out day one of the tournament. Finland is a team that never struck gold in this tournament until the year 1995. Meanwhile, the U.S. enter with high expectations of repeating as gold medal winners.
This year the United States roster feature some of the biggest prospects in the world. Key returnees for the U.S. are goaltender Jack Campbell, and forwards Ryan Bourque and Jason Zucker. All three players achieved their goals last year, winning gold and gaining recognition from NHL executives.
In the final game of day one of the World Juniors between Finland and the United States, an eventless opening stanza took place for the first 15 minutes. Both the United States and Finland were feeling one another out, trying to find a weak spot.
Early on Finland was winning the majority of faceoffs, allowing them to advance down ice and sustain pressure on the Americans. Despite the Finns out shooting the Americans, the few shots the States had early on were great opportunities in close. As the period went on the Red, White, and Blue began having more success setting up the offensive fore check in front of the net.
Despite the American’s ability to set up the fore check, they still had a disability in trying to screen the opposition netminder. However two late period power plays for the U.S. gave them two opportunity to capitalize before intermission.
After a failed first attempt, Justin Faulk scored on team USA’s second power play when he launched a one time shot and found the back of the net. The tally with just over one minute remaining, sent both teams into the dressing room with the United States up, 1-0.
The first 12 minutes of the middle stanza was much like wise to the opening period. The far majority of time between the two teams were spent between the two blue lines, and a long the boards for constant puck battles. The only exception was heavy pressure applied by the U.S. in the opening minutes of the period, after Bourque was tripped up.
With just over six minutes remaining in the middle period, Joonas Nattinen capitalized for Finland. A quick pass in front of Campbell was blasted home right by a screened U.S. netminder, and Finland tied it 1-1.
Just moments later, a careless turn over by the Finland defense was potted into the net by Zucker for his first of the tournament. A quick answer by the United States, and they retook the lead at 2-1 on a picture perfect wrist shot. That would take the game into the second intermission with the United States holding a slim lead.
Both teams came out of the locker room at the start of the third period with high intentions of leaving HSBC Arena with a win. Each team struggled setting up a consistent offensive pressure to start period number three.
The clock began to run down faster on the Finland side, as they missed a golden opportunity to tie the game five minutes into the period. Campbell stood his ground well, as the Americans were given a huge power play opportunity with 15 minutes remaining. The United States were set up in the offensive end moving the puck around the perimeter when a shot was fired into the Finland net.
However, the referee standing in the corner waved off the goal immediately due to a crease violation against the United States. The game remained 2-1 as the game approached the middle minutes. Finland continued to out shoot the United States and threaten to tie the game late. After the disallowed goal, the Americans started to loose their offensive composure.
With 7:01 remaining in regulation, an initial shot was turned a side by Campbell but the rebound trickled home off the stick of Liro Pakarinen. With that goal, the game was knotted up at two a piece, and Finland had all the momentum on their side. The clock began to whine down on regulation time, and the United States and Finland were going to overtime with the game tied 2-2.
A five minute four on four overtime period kicked off between the two teams following regulation. The Fins entered the U.S. zone and applied pressure early on. A glove save by Jack Campbell on a rocket kept the game tied in sudden death.
With just under two minutes remaining in over time, Nick Bjugstad scored for the United States to win it 3-2. A snap shot the beat Finland netminder Joni Ortio, and a sellout crowd at HSBC Arena erupted as the United States escaped with a 3-2 win.
Team U.S.A is back in action on Tuesday night against Slovakia at 8 p.m.