As the old saying goes, "What's old is new again," and in 2021, what's new was the result.
Like Monday's first World Junior Championship semifinal, which saw Canada beat Russia for a spot in the gold-medal game, the United States and Finland have a history. Two years ago, the Finns bested the Americans in the gold-medal game when now-Rangers forward Kaapo Kakko netted the go-ahead goal with 1:26 on the clock. Last year, Finland pitched a shutout to send the Americans home in the quarterfinals and dash their hopes of a fifth straight year with a medal.
But now it's 2021 and the Americans have broken through. With just 1:16 on the clock — and a smidge over two minutes after the Finns tied the game after trailing 3-1 entering the final frame — Arthur Kaliyev made it a party in the USA with what became the game-winning goal in a 4-3 victory.
"Obviously that was probably the craziest period of hockey I've ever played in," said John Farinacci, who scored the United States' second goal. "They're a really good team and we let them get back in the game a little bit with those two goals, but, you know, obviously [Kaliyev and Alex Turcotte, who had the first assist] made a great play at the end there to give us the lead and ultimately the win."
"I saw him wide open, which usually is never really an option because everyone knows how good of a goal scorer he is," Turcotte said as he described setting up the game-winner. "My eyes lit up and just ripped it to him and he had an unbelievable shot."
Kaliyev was one of eight players from last year's U.S. squad to return (Bobby Brink, Cole Caufield, Spencer Knight, Alex Turcotte, Dustin Wolf, Cam York and Trevor Zegras are the others). Before the game, head coach Nate Leaman said he thought this group "might have a chip their shoulder."
Well, seven of the eight (Wolf was the backup goalie) played key roles, including Turcotte, who had a goal and the primary apple on Kaliyev's winner; and Zegras and Caufield, who had the helpers on Matthew Boldy's goal that gave the U.S. a 3-1 lead. With his apple, Zegras is now tied for second on USA Hockey's World Juniors all-time lists for assists in a single tournament (10, with Derek Stepan and Phil Kessel); points in a single tournament (16, with Jeremy Roenick) and points in a career (25, with Roenick). Zegras also is tied atop the 2021 scoring leaderboard with Canada's Dylan Cozens at 16.
"He's very worthy of being the player that's leading the tournament in points. He's earned them," Leaman said postgame. "I think he works hard. I think tomorrow I'm very aware that Canada's going to try to bump him and take him out of his game, but I think he's mature enough to stay in that."
In between the pipes was Knight, who was one of three U.S. goalies in 2019 and maybe had a little extra motivation. He was solid, stopping 33 of 36 shots, allowing goals to Kasper Simontaival (two) and Roni Hirvonen. Simontaival's first goal was off a pretty passing play on the power play that would have been difficult for even the most veteran of netminders to stop and his second was after being left alone by the U.S. defense. With his sixth career win in the World Juniors on Monday night, Knight is now tied with Brian Boucher and Mike Dunham for fourth on USA Hockey's all-time wins list.
"It was a good game. A lot of momentum swings, great junior hockey, great tournament," said Leaman. "Finland's knocked USA out of the tournament the past few years. It was a hump we had to get over and really proud of the guys."
The U.S. will now face off against its North American rival for the gold.
"We know that they're the team to beat in this tournament," Leaman said. "We know everything's been written about them from Day 1. We know that this is one of their best teams all time. We're going to go. We want to challenge. We want the opportunity."
Sporting News had all the action as the United States nabbed a spot in the gold-medal game against the Canadians.
(All times Eastern)
USA vs. Finland score, highlights from 2021 World Juniors semifinals
Third period: USA 4, Finland 3
11:55 p.m. — 13.3 seconds left. Finns win the draw but it goes out of the zone.
11:55 p.m. — Finns call a timeout.
11:54 p.m — Matthew Boldy with a big-time block on Ville Heinola who fires off a rocket from the point.
11:54 p.m. — No goalie for Finland and the clearing attempt almost goes in.
11:52 p.m. — GOAL . It's an Arty Party! With just 1:16 left on the clock, Arthur Kaliyev gets the puck in the high slot, pivots and scores. USA leads 4-3.
11:46 p.m. — PP GOAL. Roni Hirvonen bangs at the puck on the doorstep and knocks it in. Game tied at 3-3.
11:45 p.m. — Henry Thrun trying to clear but it goes into the stands. Finland gets a power play. Big moment in this game.
11:38 p.m. — Ville Heinola with a good chance but Spencer Knight eats it up.
11:35 p.m — The high-energy line of Brink, Farinacci and Berard come close right after giving up the goal.
11:34 p.m. — GOAL. Kasper Simontaival gets his second of the game as he sneaks in and is open for the goal. USA leads 3-2.
11:32 p.m. — Off a quick transition, the U.S. has a 3-on-1 but Slaggert hits the outside of the net.
11:31 p.m. — Just over 11 minutes left and Bobby Brink gets a good look and then so go the Finns.
11:29 p.m. — Big kill for the Americans. Finland didn't really get any looks.
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11:26 p.m. — Cole Caufield tries to chip it but instead chips it above the glass and will sit for two. Nate Leaman not happy as he knows Finland's power play is good.
11:22 p.m. — Big scramble in front of Spencer Knight but he's on top of things as his defense helps out to get the final clear. Finland getting some looks early.
11:19 p.m. — Final frame. Two-goal game. Cole Caufield gets a good chance less than 15 seconds in.
Second period: USA 3, Finland 1
11:00 p.m. — Americans control play for most of the final two minutes and well after but can't add another.
10:56 p.m. — PP GOAL. Cole Caufield quickly to Trevor Zegras in the high slot and puts in on the stick of Matthew Boldy for the redirect goal. USA leads 3-1.
10:54 p.m. — Finland takes a double-minor just seconds after the goal and the Americans, who have the best power play in the tournament (Finns No. 2) will go to work.
10:53 p.m. — GOAL. Finns completely lose track of John Farinacci and he sneaks behind the defense, breaks in and scores. USA leads 2-1.
10:52 p.m. — Couple of blocker saves by Kari Piiroinen.
10:51 p.m. — Cole Caufield and Trevor Zegras on a 2-on-1 but don't even get a shot off as the Caufield pass is blocked.
10:50 p.m. — Matthew Boldy tips a point shot just wide. Good pressure by the U.S. after the penalty kill.
10:50 p.m. — Americans kill the penalty off.
10:49 p.m. — Spencer Knight reads the play so well and stops a one-timer from the left circle by Kasper Puutio.
10:46 p.m. — Another American penalty. Finland is 1-for-2 with the man advantage. U.S. head coach Nate Leaman wanted his guys to be disciplined and so far that hasn't happened.
10:44 p.m. — Halfway through regulation and it's 1-1 with Finland outshooting the U.S. 16-11.
10:43 p.m. — John Farinacci creates a 2-on-1 but is stopped on his shot from the left circle by the edge of the far arm of Kari Piiroinen. Great shot by Farinacci.
10:40 p.m. — Americans starting to buzz and get some offensive zone time.
10:35 p.m. — Americans with some good D as the Finns streak in. Then the U.S. goes the other way and again good defense from the Finns. Teams also traded non-calls.
10:30 p.m. — Middle frame is a go. USA has outscored opponents 13-4 in the second periods of the tournament.
First period: USA 1, Finland 1
10:11 p.m. — Penalty killed, but just seconds later Spencer Knight makes a pad save and then a blocker save on a floater.
10:08 p.m. — Another power play for Finland. Not good.
10:03 p.m. — PP GOAL. And just like that, it's a tie game. What a pretty passing play: Ville Heinola to Anton Lundell to Kasper Simontaival, who finishes into the empty net as Spencer Knight can't get across. Game tied 1-1.
10:02 p.m. — Not a great time to take a penalty. Sam Colangelo called for slashing. Finland has a great power play.
10 p.m. — GOAL. Arthur Kaliyev gets the puck to the front and Alex Turcotte is able to outmuscle the defenseman to bury it past Kari Piiroinen, who was slightly out of position. USA leads 1-0.
9:59 p.m. — Americans break out and Alex Turcotte hits the trailer in the slot but the shot is stopped.
9:52 p.m. — Matthew Beniers is on fire creating chances left and right.
9:47 p.m. — Six minutes in and the Finns have five shots to the Americans' two.
9:45 p.m. — Lacrosse-goal attempt by Trevor Zegras.
9:43 p.m. — Finland gets a few shots that Spencer Knight easily eats up.
9:38 p.m. — Just 26 seconds in, Matthew Beniers steals the puck and Cole Caufield has a point-blank chance. Like Canada, the U.S. comes out hard.
9:38 p.m. — Game on. Winner gets Canada.
9:04 p.m. — Lines. Roby Jarventie (OTT) out of the lineup for Finland.
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