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Kapanen leads Finland to 4-3 win against USA White

by Adam Kimelman

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- Hannu Jortikka hasn't been the coach of Finland's national junior team for very long, but he's starting to learn who his key players are very quickly.

Chief among them is Kasperi Kapanen, the talented forward taken by the Pittsburgh Penguins with the 22nd pick in the 2014 NHL Draft.

Kapanen scored to put Finland up 3-1 in the second period and the Finns defeated USA White 4-3 on Monday.

"He is a big prospect," Jortikka told "Everybody can see his speed and his skill."

It's a repeat of last year for Kapanen, who had a strong camp and was a lock for the Finnish team that went on to win the gold medal at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship in Malmo, Sweden. Unfortunately, he had to miss the tournament with a shoulder injury.

This year, his tournament may be in doubt again, but not because of injury. Kapanen was the first player from the 2014 draft class to sign his entry-level contract, and after a strong performance at the Penguins development camp last month there's a chance he could have a spot in the NHL this season.

Kapanen knows either way he's in a winning situation. However, if he has to miss the World Juniors this season, he hopes it's for the best reason possible.

"Everybody is talking about how I missed the last one and they're telling me there's more to come, but I hope not," Kapanen said. "If I'm there it means I'm not in Pittsburgh and that's my goal, to be there, grab a spot there. I know that they're looking for good goal scorers and that's what I'm trying to do right now, score some goals and get a spot on the roster."

Aleksi Makela gave Finland a 1-0 lead 3:38 into the game when his slap shot from the point got past Vancouver Canucks goaltending prospect Thatcher Demko.

Saku Kinnunen gave Finland a 2-0 lead 8:18 into the second when he scored from in close, but USA White made it a one-goal game when Connor Clifton, a fifth-round pick (No. 133) of the Arizona Coyotes, scored at 11:32.

After Kapanen scored, USA White again cut the deficit to one with 16 seconds remaining in the period on a shorthanded goal by Sonny Milano, a first-round pick (No. 16) of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Hannes Bjorninen scored 2:43 into the third when his shot from the left side beat USA goalie Evan Cowley to his blocker side. Colorado Avalanche prospect Will Butcher got the Americans to within 4-3 with a power-play goal when he pinched down from the point to tap in a beautiful pass through the crease by Anthony Louis at 4:17, but that was as close as the Americans got.

Cowley was pulled with about a minute left, and at one point USA White had six forwards on the ice going for the tying goal. Included in that group was 16-year-old forward Auston Matthews, who took an offensive-zone draw with 15 seconds remaining, indicating exactly where he stood on the team.

"He's fun to watch, isn't he?" USA coach Mark Osiecki said. "We're going to look forward to watching him here the rest of this week."

Despite the loss, the Americans felt good about an effort that saw them outshoot the Finns 33-17, including 13-9 in the third period.

"I think that we struggled at the start the last couple days, and it was kind of apparent today, same thing," USA White forward J.T. Compher said. "As we went along, we did get better and I felt like we dominated them most of the game. The shots probably show that. I think we had a lot of chances; it's all about just burying those chances. Not the result we wanted but it's a process and we're in the process right now. [Tuesday] after we get the full team together it should be good also."

Osiecki and the USA Hockey staff will meet Monday night to discuss roster cuts that should trim the group from 42.

"That's the toughest part of it," Osiecki said. "There's a lot of good hockey players. Every kid here is a talented hockey player and they're going to be talented hockey players in the future. It's the unfortunate part of it right now, you're trying to trim it down a bit to look at other players. The players sent home, not by any means are they off and not an option. They'll definitely be looked at. They're tremendous hockey players."


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