PLYMOUTH, MI — On the final day of USA Hockey’s World Junior Summer Showcase, two games took place which had all the makings of good rivalry hockey. They certainly didn’t disappoint.
The day started off with Sweden and Finland facing off for the first time this week. These two European countries always seem to play hard against each other, and this game was no different.
Sweden came out with a bit more jump in their step and outshot their Finnish opponents 10-7 in the opening period. They also opened the scoring with an even-strength goal by Jesper Boqvist within the first four minutes of the game. Finland would eventually respond with a goal by Aarne Talvitie, but Sweden pulled ahead again before intermission with a goal by the ever-dangerous Oskar Steen.
Steen went on to score again in the first two minutes of the second period to give his team a two-goal lead, but Finland’s Juha Jaaska closed the gap late in the period. Both teams were playing hard, physical hockey, but after 40 minutes of play each had only accrued one minor penalty.
Team Sweden opened the third period on the penalty kill, and found themselves in the penalty box two more times after that. Finland made them pay for it every time they were shorthanded. Joni Ikonen buried the puck on three consecutive power plays, earning himself a hat trick. Steen got a hat trick of his own – and then some – as he tallied four goals on the day. Ikonen’s final power play goal in the final minute of the third period forced overtime in this heated matchup.
It only took just over two minutes in the three-on-three overtime for Sweden’s Tim Soderlund to rifle home the winning goal. The final score was 6-5. It was a tough loss for Team Finland, defeated in every game of the tournament, but their game against the Swedes was their best showing of the week by far.
Next up was the headlining game of Canada versus the USA. The crowd was energetic as the stands at USA Hockey Arena quickly filled in for the marquis matchup.
This game was intense from opening puck drop, with the US amassing six penalties and Canada getting four. The Americans struck first, with a power play goal by first-liner Joey Anderson. Canada responded with a goal by Jordan Kyrou on the man advantage, followed by an even-strength goal potted by Givani Smith. Adam Fox (USA) didn’t allow the Canadians to enjoy their lead for long, though, and found the back of the net off a beauty play from Casey Mittelstadt and Kailer Yamamoto.
Anderson struck again just 1:23 into the second period with another power play goal. Yamamoto, with his quick skating a slick hands, buried a goal of his own at the midway point in the period to give the US team a two-goal lead. Canada wasn’t sitting back, though, and Pierre-Luc Dubois brought his team back within one goal on a power play at the 12:45 mark. The teams went into the dressing room after 40 minutes with the US leading Canada 4-3.
With the crowd chanting and cheering the whole way, Team USA came out firing in the third period. Patrick Harper netted a power play goal 48 seconds into the final frame. Ryan Poehling finished off a highlight-reel shot as he buried the puck into Canada’s net just as he was dragged down from behind. The Americans now led 6-3 and seemed to be comfortably on their way to a victory.
Canada didn’t quit, however, and responded with two more goals of their own, this time courtesy of Sam Steel and Jonah Gadjovich. With just about six minutes left in the game, the Americans found themselves up by just one goal and the Canadians were coming after them hard. Team USA was able to hold them off, and a last-minute empty netter by Anderson, gave fans a hat trick to cheer for and a 7-5 victory over Canada to celebrate with an excited group of young hockey players.
After each game, we had the opportunity to speak with a number of players and coaches – including Canadiens prospect Joni Ikonen. Listen to the exclusive audio from each interview below:
Brady Tkachuk, Team USA
Joni Ikonen, Team Finland
Bob Motzko, Head Coach, Team USA
Dominique Ducharme, Head Coach, Team Canada
Jussi Ahokas, Head Coach, Team Finland
Interviews conducted by Amy Johnson for AHL Report