U.S. loses to Finland on late goal in WJC gold-medal game
USA's Joel Farabee of Boston University looks away as Finland celebrates its gold medal win.
The United States had to settle for a silver medal Saturday.
Finland’s Kaapo Kakko, 17, who is expected to be a top-five selection in the NHL draft in June, scored with 1:26 left to give his country a 3-2 win over the U.S. and the gold medal in the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship at Rogers Arena in Vancouver.
“Looking back on it in the future, it'll probably be good memories,” USA forward Jack Hughes said on the IIHF website. “But right now, it just sucks that we lost. I would have liked to do it differently.”
Hughes is projected to be the No. 1 pick in the NHL Draft.
This is the fourth consecutive medal in the annual competition for Team USA, which won the bronze medal last year, the gold in 2017 and the bronze in 2016.
“It’s hard to do," said U.S. goalie Cayden Primeau, who made 28 saves. “So obviously they take pride in it with USA Hockey. Obviously silver isn't what we wanted today, but we can look back on it with honor and pride.”
Primeau is the son of former Red Wing Keith Primeau.
Kakko, 6-2 and 190 pounds, backhanded a rebound past Primeau to give Finland its third WJC gold medal in six years (2014 and 2016).
“He’s an unbelievable player,” Finnish defenseman Oskari Laaksonen said of Kakko. “He showed today that he’s a guy of big games, and he loves to play in the big games. It’s great.”
Kakko’s Team Finland teammate and Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Henri Jokiharju told TSN that he thought Kakko would be the top pick in June and compared him to Toronto Maple Leafs star Auston Matthews.
“Sure stick, and like quick hands and he’s a good skater,” Jokiharju said. “And like he can make some good plays in tight areas.”
Kakko had two goals and three assists in seven games in the tournament, while Hughes had four assists in four games, missing three games with an injury.
Down 2-0 after Otto Latvala scored for Finland six minutes into the third period, it took the U.S. only 1:01 to get on the board on Alexander Chmelevski’s goal. Josh Norris (University of Michigan, Oxford) tied it just 1:41 later. Hughes got an assist on Chmelevski’s goal.
“I liked our pushback,” said United States coach Mike Hastings. “I’m sure there were some people who thought that we were close to being six-feet under when we were down by two, but we came back and fought.”
Jesse Ylonen also scored for Finland. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen stopped 26 shots.
Team USA beat Finland 4-1 on New Year’s Eve in the Group B round-robin.
“We didn’t want to overlook them just because of the result we had earlier in the tournament,” Primeau said. “But they did the usual where they were just skilled and got pucks to the net and got on some rebounds.”
Russia defeated Switzerland 5-2 in the bronze medal game earlier on Saturday.