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by Staff Writer / Arizona Coyotes

U.S. Downs Finland; Now 2-0 At World Junior Championship
Wheeler Scores Twice; Fritsche U.S. Player of the Game

VANCOUVER, British Columbia - The U.S. rallied from an early two-goal deficit and held on for a 6-5 victory over Finland here tonight in preliminary round action at the 2006 International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship. Team USA is now 2-0 in the tournament.

"I was proud of our guys," said U.S. Head Coach Walt Kyle. "We kept our composure after falling behind early and were able to hang in there at the end."

After Lauri Korpikoski won a race up the right side and beat Jeff Frazee for a 2-0 Finland lead at 8:26 of the opening period, the U.S. turned up the pressure. Tom Fritsche (Parma, Ohio), the U.S. Player of the Game, banged one in during a goal-mouth scramble at 9:42 with Team USA on the power play to cut the Finland lead in half. Blake Wheeler (Plymouth, Minn.) tied the game at 17:05 as his shot from the right faceoff circle found the back of the net. Then, with just :11 left in the stanza, Brian Lee (Moorhead, Minn.) wristed one from the top of the left faceoff circle through a screen in front to give the U.S. its first lead of the game. Robbie Schremp (Fulton, N.Y.) and Fritsche drew assists on the play.

Finland evened the game at 1:28 of the second period thanks to Aki Seitsonen, but the U.S. re-gained the lead for good as Bobby Ryan (Cherry Hill, N.J.) beat Karri Ramo through the legs from just above the goal line with Team USA on the power play. Phil Kessel (Madison, Wis.) earned his sixth assist of the tournament on the play. Wheeler put one home on a rebound in front at 19:18 to put the U.S. up 5-3 after two.

The U.S. appeared in solid control after Kevin Porter (Detroit, Mich.) scored on the power play at 9:59 to give the U.S. a 6-3 lead, but Finland didn't quit. Lauri Tukonen got behind the U.S. defense and scored on a breakaway at 15:34 to cut the margin to two. Then with Ramo pulled and Team USA's Erik Johnson in the penalty box, Teemu Laakso scored at 18:34 to pull Finland to what wound up to be the final score.

U.S. netminder Jeff Frazee (Glenview, Ill.) finished with 29 saves to pick up the victory. Ramo had 37 stops for Finland.

Team USA will take tomorrow off before facing Switzerland on Friday (Dec. 30).

NOTES:The U.S., which fired 19 shots on goal in the first period, didn't manage its first shot on goal until nearly eight minutes into the period ... Kessel, one of five American plays with five or more points, leads Team USA with seven points (all assists) in the tournament.


Scoring By Period
Finland 2-1-2 -- 5
USA  3-2-1 -- 6

First Period - Scoring: 1, FIN, Alikoski (Leinonen), 6:21; 2, FIN, Korpikoski, 8:26 (sh); 1, USA, Fritsche (Mueller, Schremp), 9:42 (pp); 2, USA, Wheeler (Mueller, Porter), 17:05; 3, USA, Lee (Schremp, Fritsche), 19: 49 (pp). Penalties: USA, J. Johnson (elbowing); 0:23; FIN, Seppanen (hooking), 6:57; FIN, Seitsonen (tripping), 9:17; FIN, Leppanen (interference), 10:22; FIN, Sailio (holding the stick), 12:06; USA, Wheeler (hooking), 14:35; FIN, Koistinen (hooking), 19:32.

Second Period - Scoring: 3, FIN, Seitsonen (Komarov, Joensuu), 1:28 (pp). 4, USA, Ryan (Kessel), 8:01 (pp); 5, USA, Wheeler (Ryan, Schremp), 19:18. Penalties: USA, Kessel (hooking), 0:47; USA, J. Johnson (interference), 2: 58; FIN, Koistinen (interference), 7:07; FIN, Joensuu (tripping), 8:50; USA, Bourque (interference), 9:46; FIN, Sailio (high-sticking), 9:50; FIN, Komarov (high-sticking), 10: 50; FIN, Komarov (high-sticking), 10:50, USA, E. Johnson (interference), 15:04; USA, Wheeler (roughing), 19:26; FIN, Komarov (interference), 19:30.

Third Period - Scoring: 6, USA, Porter (Ryan, Kessel), 9:59 (pp); 4, FIN, Tukonen (Leinonen), 15:34; 5, FIN, Laakso (Komarov), 18:48 (pp). Penalties: FIN, Sailio (hooking); 0:37; Laakson (holding), 6:17; FIN, Leinonen (slashing), 9:24; USA, Butler (holding), 10:56; USA, E. Johnson (tripping), 18:34; USA, J. Johnson (roughing), 20:00.

Shots By Period
FIN 11-12-11--34
USA 19-13-11--43

Goaltending (SH-SV)
FIN, Ramo (43-37)
USA, Frazee (34-29)

Power Play: FIN 2-8, USA 4-14
Penalties: FIN 14-28, USA 10-20

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