ANGELHOLM, Sweden – The U.S. National Junior Team finished pre-tournament play with a 3-2 win over Finland today at Lindab Arena. Goaltender Jon Gillies (South Portland, Maine/Providence College) made 38 saves, including a second period penalty shot and five point-blank shots in the final minute of play.
Next, Team USA makes the short trip to Malmo, Sweden, to start the 2014 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship. The U.S. begins defense of its gold medal against Czech Republic Thursday (Dec. 26) at 5:30 p.m. (11:30 a.m. ET). In the U.S., the game will be televised live on NHL Network and streamed live on NHL.com.
"Today is probably the type of game that we have to win, a 3-2 type game, with this team," said Don Lucia," head coach of the U.S. National Junior Team. "Jon Gillies did a good job in net. He needs to be our best player night in and night out. The guys that we need to score scored a couple goals tonight. we got pucks down below the goal line and started to grind things out, which is where we'll be at our best."
Dan O’Regan (Needham, Mass./Boston Univ.) opened the scoring with a power-play goal at 10:21 of the first period. Nic Kerdiles (Irvine, Wis./Univ. of Wisconsin) rushed down the left side and fed the puck to Riley Barber (Pittsburgh, Pa./Miami Univ.) near the left post. Barber corralled the puck behind the net and centered it for O’Regan to flip under the cross bar.
At 7:32 of the second stanza, Finland tied the game on Arturri Lehkonen’s power-play goal from the center point.
Stationed in the right slot, Ryan Hartman (West Dundee, Ill.) buried a one-timer from Jack Eichel (North Chelmsford, Mass./U.S. National Under-18 Team) 2:23 into the third period. Initially skating right to left behind the net, Eichel quickly reversed direction to create a passing lane through the right circle.
Brady Skjei (Lakeville, Minn./Univ. of Minnesota) scored the eventual game-winner with a pinpoint blast from the right point at 5:16. Tommy DiPauli (Woodridge, Ill./Univ. of Notre Dame) set up Skjei with a cross-ice feed, while Vince Hinostroza (Bartlett, Ill./Univ. of Notre Dame) also assisted.
Finland capitalized on a five-on-three power play at 11:33, cutting USA’s advantage to one.
The teams exchanged scoring chances in the final minutes, though the last 60 seconds were played in the U.S. zone. Gillies made back-to-back kick saves as well as a sprawling stop to secure the win.