LIBEREC, Czech Republic — The U.S. National Junior Team built a 5-0 lead through two periods and finished with a 5-3 victory over Finland in the final preliminary-round game for both teams at the 2008 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship here tonight. Colin Wilson (Boston University) had a natural hat trick for Team USA.
The United States finished 4-0 in the preliminary round and earned a bye to Friday’s (Jan. 4) semifinals, where it will face the winner of Wednesday’s (Jan. 2) Canada-Finland quarterfinal contest.
“I liked the way we played early in the game,” said U.S. Head Coach John Hynes. “We got sloppy at times, especially in the third period, and we have to learn from that.”
Team USA scored the only two goals of the opening period. The first came at 9:29 when Wilson tapped in a puck that was loose in the crease after James vanRiemsdyk’s (New Hampshire) original shot from the left faceoff dot got between the legs of Finland netminder Riku Helenius. Jordan Schroeder (U.S. National Under-18 Team) also was credited with an assist on the play. Wilson scored his second of the game off another rebound of a vanRiemsdyk shot. U.S. netminder Jeremy Smith (Plymouth (OHL)) was solid in goal, making 10 saves in the period.
The United States went up 3-0 at 1:43 of the second period off a Finland turnover. Wilson picked up the puck at the bottom of the left circle and backhanded one past Helenius. The American lead went to 4-0 when Tyler Ruegsegger (Denver) wristed one from the left faceoff circle that found the far side of the net. Kyle Okposo (St. Paul, Minn.) and Jamie McBain (Wisconsin) each gained assists on the goal. Then, after Wilson won the faceoff, vanRiemsdyk whistled one home from the top of the left circle at 9:14 to prompt a goaltending change for Finland. Team USA led 5-0 after 40 minutes.
Finland scored the only three goals of the third period, including a pair of power-play markers. The first came at 10:52 when Nico Aaltonen re-directed a feed from the side of the net. At 16:08 Mikko Kousa wristed one from the slot through traffic that found the back of the net. Then with :46 left in the contest, Niclas Lucenius deflected a shot in front of U.S. netminder Joe Palmer (Ohio State), who relieved Smith to start the third period.
Smith (15 saves) and Palmer (8 saves) combined in goal to gain the win for Team USA, while Helenius and Sateri totaled 24 stops in the losing effort for Finland.
NOTES: Team USA won its first four games in the World Junior Championship for only the second time. The United States also won its first four contests in 2004, a year in which it captured its only gold medal in the event … Colin Wilson (3-1–4) and James vanRiemsdyk (1-3–4) each had four-point games … Team USA will play the winner of the Canada-Finland quarterfinal game on Friday (Jan. 4) in the semifinals of the 2008 IIHF World Junior Championship. If the Czech Republic is in the semifinal game, it will play at 2 p.m. ET on Jan. 4, otherwise the U.S. vs. Canada-Finland winner will play at 2 p.m. … All Team USA games in the 2008 IIHF World Junior Championship are audiocast live on usahockey.com with Jack Swanson and Jeff Sauer calling the action. In addition, all games of the medal round will be televised live by the NHL Network in the United States … Brian Strait (Boston University) is Team USA’s captain, while Chris Summers (Michigan), Blake Geoffrion (Wisconsin) and Tyler Ruegsegger are alternate captains.