Team USA opened the 2015 IIHF World Juniors with a shootout win versus Team Finland. Chase de Leo got the game winner beating Ville Husso on his glove side to put Team USA up 2-1 in the shootout.
Team USA struggled to get started early in the opening period with numerous turnovers in their defensive zone and in neutral ice. Team Finland took advantage of a turnover by Team USA goalie Thatcher Demko. Demko left the puck behind the net as Team Finland player Mikko Rantanen closed in on him. Rantanen collected the puck then played it off of a USA defensemen just to the side of the net. The puck bounced off of Auston Matthew’s stake and past Demko to give the Fin’s the early goal advantage.
That goal seemed to wake Team USA players up as most of the remaining minutes of the opening period was played in their offensive zone. Their first goal of the game and tournament came during the first penalty of the game. With Aleksi Makela in the box for holding Team USA went to work on the power play. They continued their dominance they showed last year in Sweden when they had the top power play unit by getting a goal with 5 seconds remaining in the penalty. The goal came when Jack Eichel passed the puck from behind the net to Alex Tuch who was positioned in front of the goal. Tuch simply tapped the puck in to even things up at one; Anthony Deangelo got an assist on the goal as well.
Both teams exchanged penalties in the final two periods with no goals being scored. Finland was called for a penalty with 7.8 seconds remaining in regulation. Team USA was unable to convert in regulation leaving them with 1:53 of 4 on 3 to start overtime.
Finland was able to kill off the penalty in overtime and the remaining overtime minutes played out much like the previous two periods, with neither team managing to net a goal. Team Finland had a chance at the end of overtime with a wide-open net but Will Butcher laid out for what was probably the game saving block.
Team USA was first to shoot in the shootout putting top prospect Jack Eichel on the ice. He went glove side on Ville Husso to give Team USA a 1-0 lead. That lead was quickly wiped away as Artturi Lehkonen beat Demko low on his stick side to even it back up at one a piece. Sunny Milano and Juuso Ikonen each took the second shot for their teams but were unable to convert. Chase de Leo came on for Team USA and netted a goal through Husso’s five-hole to put the American’s back up top. Kasperi Kapanen attempted to go high on Demko’s glove side to even things back up and go into extra shots but Demko easily gloved it to give Team USA the win.
Team USA got two of the three available points while Team Finland collected one point. Will Butcher and Ville Husso earned the player of the game honors for their teams.
Finland looks to bounce back against Slovakia tomorrow while the American’s get a day off and return to play on Sunday versus Germany at 8pm ET.
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