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Game Day: USA vs. Finland (Preliminary Round)

By USA Hockey, 04/22/14, 4:00AM EDT


Today's Contest

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.

Match-Up History

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.

News and Notes

  • The American power play is 1-13 (7.7%), while Finland is 2-10 (20.0%) ... The U.S. penalty kill is a perfect 8-8 (100.0%), while Finland is also flawless, killing all 10 chances (100.0%) against. Finland also has one shorthanded marker ... Finland falls fifth in terms of the most penalized team (12:40 average per game) in the tournament through three games. Team USA has taken nine minor penalties in three games for an average of 6:00 per game.
  • Team USA held Denmark to eight shots on Sunday (April 20), setting records for the U18 World Championship. The eight shots for Denmark are tied for the second least in tournament history. Germany has the least amount, mustering just six shots in a game on April 15, 1999, against the United States. Denmark also tied the record for fewest shots in a period with zero. Belarus (2nd period, April 15, 2004 vs. Finland) and Slovakia (3rd period, April 17, 2007 vs. Finland) share that futility mark.
  • The U.S. has scored the first goal in each of its three tournament games.
  • Sonny Milano has at least one point in each of his first three tournament games, including two goals and three assists. Factoring in the pre-tournament game versus Germany, the forward has eight points (4-4) in four games.
  • Kyle Connor holds a three-game scoring streak, netting one goal in each of Team USA's preliminary-round games. The Youngstown Phantoms product also scored in the pre-tournament contest against Germany.
  • Jack Dougherty has one point in each preliminary-round contest for Team USA. The blueliner has one goal and two assists during the streak.
  • Brandon Fortunato is on a four-game assist streak, including a helper he earned in the pre-tournament game versus Germany.
  • Finland's roster features 15 players recently named on NHL Central Scouting's list of top draft-eligible players for 2014, including top-ranked European skater Kasperi Kapanen. Also ranked along with the European skaters: Sebastian Aho (9th), Juho Lammikko (14th), Eetu Sopanen (31st), Antti Kalapudas (32nd), Teemu Lamsa (39th), Joni Tuulola (41st), Sebastian Moberg (57th), Jere Rouhiainen (62nd), Miro Keskitalo (81st), Joel Kiviranta (82nd), Manu Honkanen (95th), Atte Makinen (97th), while Kaapo Kahkonen ranked fourth among the top European goalie prospects. Waltteri Hopponen, who played for the Sioux City Musketeers of the United States Hockey League, was ranked 122 on the North American skaters list.
  • The average height of Team Finland is 6-1, while the average weight is 181 pounds.
  • Host country Finland is averaging 3,216 fans per game, followed by the Czech Republic (2,100), Switzerland (1,817) and the United States (1,211).
  • Follow @USAHockeyScores on Twitter for live scoring updates during the tournament. Scores will be designated with the #U18Worlds tag.
  • For additional coverage, visit the NTDP Facebook page and follow @USANTDP on Twitter.

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