Power Play Sends USA Past Finland, Into WJC Semis

Click for pictorial by Melissa Wade

The United States used four power play goals in the third period on the way to a 6-3 victory over Finland in quarterfinal action at the 31st annual International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship at FM Mattsson Arena.

The win propelled the United States into the semifinals against Canada on Jan. 3. Opening faceoff is set for 4 p.m. (10 a.m. EST) at Ejendals Arena in Leksand, Sweden.

“We’re obviously very happy,” said U.S. head coach Ron Rolston. “I didn’t think we necessarily played our best game, but we got the job done. We have an extremely short turnaround now to get prepared for Canada, but we’ll be ready.”

The USA had a 1-0 lead after the opening period. The goal came at 11:28 when defenseman Erik Johnson put home a second rebound from the side of the right circle. Ryan Stoa and Taylor Chorney picked up assists on the play. U.S. netminder Jeff Frazee was outstanding in the period, including a huge glove save of Oskar Osala from point blank range as well as several good saves on two Finland power plays.

Just 2:11 into the second period, Team USA extended its lead to 2-0 as Erik Johnson held the puck in at the point, moved around a defender and fired a shot at the net. While the puck didn’t go in, Patrick Kane was there to put home the rebound high over Tuukka Rask from the left circle. Finland rallied to tie the game before the end of the period. Jesse Joensuu squeezed one past Frazee from just above the goal line off a rebound as time expired on a Finland power play at 6:38. Then Osala made a nifty move in front to beat Frazee at 10:01.

In a penalty-filled third period, five power play goals were scored, including four by the United States. Team USA took a 3-2 lead just :23 into the final stanza when Erik Johnson’s shot from the right point went off Jack Skille’s shin pad in front and into the net. Just 1:15 later, Osala scored a power play goal of his own as he beat Frazee from the side of the left faceoff circle.

Peter Mueller gave the U.S. the lead for good when he blasted a shot from the high slot home at 7:53 with Team USA enjoying a two-man advantage. After Finland’s Timo Seppanen inadvertently shot the puck out of play from his own zone to give Team USA another two-man advantage, Trevor Lewis was the recipient of a nice pass across the goal mouth from Patrick Kane and he quickly got the puck out of his skates and past Rask for a 5-3 lead at 9:00.

Team USA was forced to kill off three straight penalties after that, including one minute of five-on-three power play time. Jack Johnson fired home a shot from the slot at 19:40 with Team USA up two men to finish the scoring.

Frazee picked up his third win in as many tries at the 2007 World Junior Championship with 31 saves, while Rask also had 31 stops.

NOTES: Patrick Kane, with a goal and two assists, was named the U.S. Player of the Game for the third time in the tournament. Kane has 4-6–10 through five games… Jeff Frazee is undefeated in four games at the World Junior Championship and is 10-0-0 in his career in IIHF championship events… The 2007 IIHF World Junior Championship features athletes under the age of 20 on international teams including the United States, Belarus, Canada, Germany, Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden and Switzerland… The U.S. National Junior Team is coming off a fourth-place finish at the 2006 World Junior Championship in Vancouver, British Columbia.