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Finland beats United States 4-1 at world junior men's hockey championship

by Staff Writer / Calgary Flames

EDMONTON - Canada's pool at the world junior men's hockey championship became even more interesting with Finland's 4-1 upset of the U.S. on Wednesday.

The Finns were considered the tournament dark horse behind favourites Canada, U.S., Russia and Sweden, but were tied 1-1 with the Americans in Pool B after their victory.

Canada and the Czech Republic, both 1-0, were to meet in a later game while Denmark, 0-2, had the day off.

Sweden was facing Switzerland and Russia was to take on Slovakia later in Pool A games in Calgary.

Finland recovered from their 8-1 thumping by Canada to open the tournament Monday and regained some confidence with their win.

"Of course our players wanted to show up and show how good of players they are," said Finland head coach Raimo Helminen. "That Canada game kind of put them in a bad situation and today they showed everyone they can play hockey.

"We're not a big team, but pretty hungry and work hard."

Goaltender Sami Aittokallio kept the game close early by stopping all 24 shots in the first two periods. The Colorado Avalanche prospect made 38 saves on 39 shots overall.

Joel Armia, a first-round draft pick of the Buffalo Sabres, led the Finns with two goals and an assist. Mikael Granlund, another first-round selection of the Minnesota Wild, and Nashville Predators property Mikka Salomaki also scored.

Brandon Saad of the U.S. temporarily tied the game early in the third period, but the first of two Armia goals put the Finns ahead for good.

American goaltender John Gibson allowed four goals on 27 shots.

The Edmonton fans cheer for Canada first and for whatever country is playing the U.S., whom they've decided is the tournament villain.

Finland may have been the crowd favourite by default, but they enjoyed the support they didn't get two days earlier versus Canada and saluted the stands following the game.

When several Finnish players were asked about it following the game, they all broke into smiles.

"The first game we didn't have any crowd, so that was a good thing," Armia said.

The U.S. won the bronze medal at the 2011 world junior championship in Buffalo, N,Y., and have seven players back from that squad. Dean Blais coached the U.S. to gold at the 2010 tournament in Saskatoon and he is back behind the U.S. bench this year.

The Americans have enormous defencemen. Jarred Tinordi is one of them at six foot seven and there are three others six foot four or over. The Finns were beating the Americans to the puck, however, and their passing was crisper.

"Sometimes when you see that 8-1 score you think we're going to do the same thing, but you've got to give them credit," said Blais. "Their goaltender played well, they got to the net and we didn't get to the net as much as Canada did.

"I thought we had too many guys who were passengers tonight."

Armia scored the eventual winning goal and Finland's fourth goal of the game. On a partial breakaway and trying to keep control of the puck, he slid the puck between Gibson's pads to put Finland up 2-1 at 10:53 of the third.

Salomaki scored the first goal of the game one minute 11 seconds into the second period.

Saad, who plays for the Ontario Hockey League's Saginaw Spirit, tied the game 19 seconds into the third. But Finland outshot the U.S. 15-14 in the third period. Granlund's goal at 11:22 and Armia's second of the game at 16:27 sealed the victory.

Both Finland and the U.S. have Thursday off before Finland meets Denmark and the U.S. faces the Czechs on Friday.

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