The U.S. National Under-18 Team faces host country Finland in its fourth and final preliminary round game at the 2014 International Ice Hockey Federation Men's Under-18 World Championship. Game time is slated for 11:30 a.m. EDT at Lappeenranta Arena in Finland.
"This will be the biggest game we've faced as a group since we started (with USA Hockey's National Team Development Program)," said U18 defenseman Jack Glover (Golden Valley, Minn.). "The building is going to be packed and we have a lot of work to do, but the atmosphere will be special. We're looking forward to it."
This is the final game of the preliminary round for both squads. Team USA is coming off a 7-0 shutout of Denmark on Sunday (April 20); a game that saw the U.S. outshoot the Danes 59-8. Jack Eichel (North Chelmsford, Mass./2-1) and Sonny Milano (Massapequa, N.Y./1-2) paced the Americans with three points each and Edwin Minney (Wind Gap, Pa.) stopped all eight shots he faced in the win. Jared Fiegl (Parker, Colo.), Jack Glover (Golden Valley, Minn.), Ryan Hitchcock (Manhasset, N.Y.) and Kyle Connor (Shelby Township, Mich.) also scored for Team USA. Finland most recently was clipped by the Czech Republic in a shootout, 4-3, yesterday (April 21) in Lappeenranta. Down by one goal, the Finns' Samu Niku potted a goal with 1:12 left in regulation. After a scoreless overtime period, the Czechs won the shootout, 2-0, to claim the victory.
Finland is currently first in Group B with a record of 2-0-1-0 (W-OTW-OTL-L), good for seven points. The United States sits right behind with a record of 2-0-0-1, tied with Switzerland (2-0-0-1) who also has six points.
Finland is coming off a bronze-medal performance at the 2013 U18 World Championship in Sochi, Russia. The Finns beat Switzerland in the quarterfinals, narrowly fell to Canada in the semifinals and triumphed over Russia in the bronze-medal game. Finland scored 24 goals and let up 15 in seven games. Kaapo Kahkonen, Atte Makinen, Kasperi Kapanen and Joel Kiviranta were all apart of last year's U18 squad.
In other tournament action, the Czech Republic faces Switzerland in Lappeenranta, while Canada and Russia do battle prior to Germany versus Sweden in Imatra.
This will be the 13th meeting between the two countries in the IIHF Men's Under-18 World Championship. Team USA is 8-0-0-4 (W-OTW-OTL-L) all-time versus Finland in this tournament. The U.S. has outscored the Finns, 35-23, in the series.
In the latest match-up, Finland's Juuse Saros made 49 saves to help his squad upend the Americans, 2-1, in the final preliminary-round game at the 2013 U18 World Championship in Sochi. John Hayden (Greenwich, Conn.) scored first for Team USA, but one goal in both the second and third periods proved to be too much for the U.S. to overcome.
Team USA's last win came on April 12, 2002, in Brno, Czech Republic. Four third period goals sealed the victory for the Americans and Collin Olson (Apple Valley, Minn.) made a 21-save shutout performance. Nicolas Kerdiles (Irvine, Calif.), Matthew Lane (Rochester, N.Y.), Quentin Shore (Denver, Colo.) and Connor Carrick (Orland Park, Ill.) all scored for the U.S.