Rasmus Ristolainen scored his second goal of the tournament Saturday as Finland advanced to the gold medal game of the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship with a resounding 5-1 victory over Canada. Finland will square off with archrival Sweden in the title game on Sunday.
Teuvo Teravainen (CHI) collected two goals and an assist for the Finns, who defeated Canada for the first time in 12 years at the prestigious international event. Juuse Saros (NSH) put up a wall in the Finland net, stopping 23 of 24 shots to earn the win. Team Canada netminder Zachary Fucale (MTL) finished with 18 saves in defeat, including a sprawling second-period showstopper with the glove to thwart Otto Rauhala.
The teams skated without a goal through the opening 20 minutes, but that changed 4:19 into the second period when a funky bounce off the endboards sent the puck to the front of the net where Joni Nikko capitalized to give Finland a 1-0 lead.
Less than a minute after the opening goal, Canada took a penalty and Finland made them pay. Teravainen set up at the top of the faceoff circle and zipped a pass to the crease where Artturi Lehkonen (MTL) was there to put it past Fucale for the 2-0 lead.
Canada’s Jonathan Drouin (TBL) halved the Finnish lead to 2-1 when he swooped into the slot, controlled a loose puck, and buried a backhand at 11:36.
Ristolainen restored Finland’s two-goal lead at 15:36 of the middle period by pinching in from the point and going around both Aaron Ekblad (2014 draft) and Connor McDavid (2015 draft) before flipping the puck high over Fucale’s shoulder.
Ristolainen received a heavy workload throughout the game, but especially in the third period as the Finns played a disciplined defensive game to stifle the talented Canadians. The steady rearguard made his mark with smart plays with the puck and hustle on the penalty kill, providing a positive sign considering his two-game absence earlier in the week due to illness.
Teravainen closed the game out with a pair of goals in the final 3:17, with one coming on a penalty shot and the other going into an empty net. The markers were the first of the tournament for the slick centerman.
In the day’s first semifinal matchup, Mikhail Grigorenko and Nikita Zadorov were each unable to connect Saturday as Russia fell to Sweden 2-1. Grigorenko produced four shots on goal and Zadorov recorded just one for the Russians, who will face Canada Sunday for the bronze medal.
Russia played an inspired opening frame, winning the majority of the 1-on-1 battles and matching the Swedes in all three zones of the ice. They also looked to set Zadorov up for his cannon shot from the back end. The game would tilt back-and-forth until a pair of late penalties to Russia shifted the game’s momentum.
Sweden held the zone with a two-man advantage, eventually using the power play to take a 1-0 edge into the first intermission thanks to a Filip Forsberg (NSH) backdoor tally seconds after the first penalty expired.
After a scoreless second period, Oskar Sundqvist (PIT) put the Swedes in front 2-0 in the game’s 44th minute when he accepted a long breakout feed through the neutral zone and roofed a breakaway backhand over the shoulder of Russian netminder Andrei Vasilevski (TBL), who finished the day with 19 saves.
Just under two minutes later, Russia would finally get on the board with a Damir Zhafyarov tally from a sharp angle to cut the deficit to 2-1 with 13:23 left on the clock. The goal ignited the Russian attack but they were no match down the stretch for Sweden, who was backboned by a 26-save effort from Oscar Dansk (CBJ) to skate into Sunday’s gold medal game.
Grigorenko, who recorded four goals and seven points through six games, was named one of the Russia’s top three players in the tournament at the conclusion of the contest on Saturday. Along with his offensive production, the forward has logged a plus-6 rating (T-3rd overall) and won 68 of 104 faceoffs (58.6 percent) while seeing time on the both the power-play and penalty-killing units.
Zadorov was a major physical presence in his own zone and a catalyzing puck-mover for the up-ice attack. Despite the lack of production Saturday, the towering Zadorov leads all tournament defenders with four goals, while his five total points place second.
For more on all the youngsters in the Sabres pipeline, check out Kris Baker’s website: sabresprospects.com. You can also follow him on Twitter (@sabresprospects) for in-game updates throughout the week on any Buffalo prospects that are in action.
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