Welcome to the 2021 World Junior Championship predictions. Each day, Last Word on Hockey will take a look at each game and give our predictions of the results. Monday, January 4th is day nine of the tournament and we have reached the semifinals. The last semifinal of the day concludes with Finland vs the United States.
2021 World Junior Championship Predictions
Finland vs the United States
The second semifinal of the day has a familiar flare to it. The United States and Finland have met in the last two years at the World Juniors, with Finland coming out on top. In 2019, Finland defeated Team USA on a late goal to win the gold medal. And last year, Finland knocked out Team USA in the quarterfinals. So this United States group has revenge on their minds. However, it will not be easy as we have seen. But as the old saying goes forgot about what happened in the past and build off the last result. Because the last result saw Team USA beat Finland in a pre-tournament game. So the Americans have some momentum heading into this game.
Finland is one of the toughest teams to play against. Sweden found that out the hard way. Regardless of the lead, they will just keep coming. And when they play the United States these games are epic. Finland is led offensively by Topi Niemela, Anton Lundell, and Kasper Simontaival. In addition to those three, there is Brad Lambert, who is having a nice tournament for only being 16 years of age. And let’s not forget about the hero of the quarterfinals, Roni Hirvonen. That top line of Lundell, Simontaival, and Hirvonen has been a big reason why Finland is back in the semifinals. Another reason is their power play. As the United States found out in the pre-tournament game you cannot give Finland the man advantage. Granted Team USA has the best penalty kill in the tournament, but that is just playing with fire with all that offence Finland has.
Kari Piiroinen continues to play great for Finland. He gave up two goals that no goalie was gonna stop against Sweden. But made the saves to keep his team in the game and ultimately advance to the semifinals. Through three games now he a 2.01 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage. Piiroinen will make life very difficult for a highly skilled American team. Even though Aku Raty and Ville Heinola, are having a quiet tournament points-wise, don’t sleep on them heading into the semifinals. These two could explode at any moment.
The United States
Entering this tournament, this group for Team USA had unfinished business. Dating back to the U18 tournament and through the past two world juniors, this group was so close to winning, they just came up short. And it was Finland who has caused this pain. And normally that never carries over but there are eight players they have been around for this recent history so you know they will use it as motivation. However, Team USA head coach Nate Leeman took notice of Finland’s work ethic not only in the pre-tournament game but in their quarterfinal win over Sweden. The United States knows they will have to outwork Finland if they are going to advance to the gold medal game.
They have one of the toughest lines to play against in Brett Berard, John Farinacci, and Bobby Brink. They set the tone for Team USA in every game. That line has scored in every game as well. Farinacci played the hero in the quarterfinal against Slovakia scoring two goals. These guys will grind and bring the energy necessary to beat a team like Finland. Spencer Knight played another excellent game for Team USA. Even though Team USA’s shutout streak came to an end at 218 minutes, he was outstanding and made the big save when he had to. Not to mention their streak of 25 unanswered goals. He will be tested against Finland. And don’t forget about Trevor Zegras and that offence. Arthur Kaliyev and Cole Caufield have goals in back to back games and that is a good sign for Team USA heading into this game.
This semifinal matchup at the 2021 World Junior Championship will be a great chess match. Both teams rank top five in special teams. So it would be wise for both teams to come out of the box. Everyone always overlooks Finland despite their recent success. However, this American team is on a mission to win and they haven’t forgotten about the past two years. Revenge can be a great motivator, especially in a playoff game. Team USA knows what it takes now to win after a tough game against Slovakia. Like the past two games, this one will be a one-goal game. But this Team USA comes out on top.
Prediction: United States Win 2-1
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