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U.S. juniors beat Finland 6-3

by Adam Kimelman
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- Watching Jeremy Morin play for the U.S. against Finland on Wednesday at USA Hockey's National Junior Evaluation Camp, it's easy to see why the Chicago Blackhawks wanted him and why the Atlanta Thrashers were so reluctant to let him go.
Morin, a 6-foot-1, 189-pound right wing, scored the game's first goal and arguably was the U.S. team's most active offensive player in a 6-3 defeat of Finland at the USA Rink at the Olympic Center here.
Morin's summer was upended a bit when he was part of the June 24 deal that saw the Blackhawks send three players off their Stanley Cup championship roster to the Thrashers for a package that was headlined by Morin.
"I think it’s a shock any time you get traded, you don't really expect it," Morin told "Looking forward, I think it's great for me and I'm excited to be a Chicago Blackhawk."
The Blackhawks certainly are happy to have him.
"He's someone that when the deal did take place he was a key element in it," Hawks Assistant General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff told "The deal culminated with that. He was someone that our guys felt very highly about. … He's someone that has a bright future in front of him. We're expecting good things form him in the future."
The Thrashers thought the same thing, going back to when they selected him in the second round (No. 45) of the 2009 Entry Draft. It's also what made him so difficult to surrender, even though they were getting back three NHL players in Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Eager and Brent Sopel.
"It was very hard (to trade him)," Thrashers GM Rick Dudley told "We know Jeremy Morin is going to be a significant player down the road."
On Wednesday, he had a goal and an assist, and Beau Bennett had a pair of assists to match the two he had against Sweden on Tuesday. Nick Bjugstad scored twice, and Chris Brown, Brock Nelson, Chris Kreider also had goals.
Andy Iles stopped 18 of the 21 shots he faced.
Julius Juntilla, Rasmus Rissanen and Mika Partanen scored for Finland. Goalie Jonathan Iilahti allowed six goals on 26 shots.
The game was the exact opposite of Tuesday's contest against Sweden, with Finland playing a more defensively-oriented game.
"Certainly the Swedish team plays a much more puck-possession style and they rely on their size and skating ability and skill," said U.S. coach Keith Allain, "The Finns are a little more North American in their play."
That style of play worked just fine for Morin.
"We like Jeremy," Allain said. "They took him on the team last year and he was a third-line forward, checking forward, so we know he's got that in him, but he's also a guy we know can score goals. He was also our captain today so we thrust him into a leadership position. There are a lot of things he can do and we're looking for versatile players."
Allain isn't the only one who likes Morin.
Dudley said he likes how Morin, "gets bigger and stronger when there's an opportunity to score. He's one of those players … Mike Bossy was like that. Mike wasn't a big man but when you put a puck in front of the net with a chance to score, not many players could hold him off that puck -- and Jeremy's a lot like that."
Rather than worry about why the Thrashers didn't want him, Morin said he looks at the trade as the Blackhawks wanting him.
"That's how you have to look at it," he said. "You can't look at the past, you go to the team you're looking at and hopefully they like you and want to put you in the system at some point. And that's what I have to do, take the positives out of it and go forward."
Morin showed a number of positive qualities during Wednesday's game, including playing the top of the triangle when the U.S. was two men down in the second period.
That's just the kind of role Morin wants to play. He already has proven he can score -- his 47 goals for the Kitchener Rangers last season were fourth in the Ontario Hockey League, and he had 7 points in seven games for the U.S. at the World Junior Championship last winter.
"I think I'm just trying to round my game out, get into a defensive role and the coaches are giving me the chance to show that I can do that side of the game," Morin said. "That's great for my development and hopefully I can do well."
The U.S. as a group did well for the second game in a row. After Morin scored on a wrist shot from the left side just 2:32 into the game, Bjugstad made it 2-0 when he knocked in a Justin Faulk rebound from in front. Brown made it 3-0 when he intercepted a pass in the neutral zone, chipped the puck past the defense and scored up high from in front.
Nelson made it 4-0 when he stood in front of the net and tipped a Brandon Saad pass behind Iilahti.
"Saw it looked like he was going for a shot, hit my stick and went in," Nelson told "I was fortunate enough to be credited for that."
Juntilla's goal midway through the second made it 4-1, but Kreider answered with a tip-in Derek Forbort's high wrist shot late in the period to make it 5-1.
U.S. defenseman Adam Clendening received a five-minute major and a game misconduct for cross-checking Finland's Topi Taavitsainen in the mouth at 14:02 of the period. When Phillip Samuelsson took another cross-checking penalty moments later, Finland took advantage when Rissanen's rocket from the right side eluded Iles to make it 5-2.
Bjugstad scored with 9.4 seconds left in the period to make it 6-2, and Finland's Partanen closed the scoring with a power-play goal with 4:01 left in the third.
The U.S. has Thursday off and returns with games against Sweden on Friday and Finland on Saturday. Finland will play Sweden on Thursday.
Contact Adam Kimelman at

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