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Team Finland's Kasper Kotkansalo guarantees win over Team Sweden

Rivalry games will close out the World Junior Summer Showcase at USA Hockey Arena

by Dana Wakiji and Art Regner @Dwakiji and @ArthurJRegner /

PLYMOUTH, MICH. - Team Finland has not gotten a win yet during the World Junior Summer Showcase but Red Wings prospect Kasper Kotkansalo says that's about to change.

The tournament wraps up Saturday with two rivalry games as Team Sweden plays Team Finland at 4 p.m. and Team USA faces Team Canada at 7 p.m.

"We won't leave this place without a win, that's for sure," Kotkansalo said with a determined grin. "The Swedes, it's the biggest rivalry. I'm excited and the whole team is excited. We're for sure going to forget everything about this and we are confident and ready to go tomorrow."

The Finns dropped a 4-3 decision to the Americans Friday night, despite outshooting them 40-21.

Kotkansalo was told he sounded kind of American with his guarantee after the loss.

"Yeah, I did that," Kotkansalo confirmed. "It's the Swedes we're talking about so we'll get them."

Despite his team's 0-3-0-1 record in the WJSS, Team Finland head coach Jussi Ahokas knows all can be made right with a win over their rival.

"Of course that's great," Ahokas said. "Those are the best games always, to play against Sweden. We're looking forward to it."

The Swedes get equally excited to play the Finns although they weren't making any declarations after their 7-4 loss to Team Canada in the Friday afternoon game.

"It's going to be fun," Team Sweden defenseman Gustav Lindstrom said. "Sweden-Finland is a nice game to play. We want to win the game to end this tournament great."

Goaltender Filip Larsson isn't sure if he will play or not but said he will be ready if he does.

"Every game means a lot, but to play against that country next to you means more than that," Larsson said. "It means a lot to win that game. We lost this one and lost against the U.S. (3-2 on Wednesday), we're going to make the last game as good as possible against Finland."

The Americans and Canadians are also gearing up for a rivalry match-up, always a fun one in hockey at any level.

"It's a rivalry for sure," Team Canada defenseman Dennis Cholowski said. "We don't like them, they don't like us on the ice. We're going to give it our all."

LARSSON IMPRESSES: After Team Sweden was defeated by Team USA 3-2 on Wednesday, Swedish coach Tomas Monten heaped praise on his losing goalie, Larsson, a Wings prospect.

Monten told the assembled press for his first start he thought Larsson acquitted himself extremely well, that he has been excellent in practice and Larsson's decision to play in North America this upcoming season should be a beneficial experience.

On Friday, Larsson was Sweden's backup goalie in a 7-4 loss to Team Canada.

After the game, Larsson was still smarting from Wednesday's loss to the Americans.

"I think I played good. I had three really tough goals against me, there's not much I could have done about them; other than that, I think I played very well," Larsson said about his only start in the WJSS. "Those were three really tough goals, I didn't have a chance on any goal actually, so it was a tough game but to play against the U.S. They didn't shoot much, but when they had their chances they're really tough."

He admits he was getting a bit antsy as the week wore on and he had not been in a game.

But deep down he knew he was practicing well enough to get his opportunity.

"I didn't know if I was going to play," Larsson said. "The goalie coach had seen me at practice and I did good there, so I thought I earned a chance, maybe I get to play (again Saturday against Finland).

"This week has gone very well. I have been very good at practice and the staff have also told me they're really happy from what they've seen from me, so I have done really well here."

Since he is playing for the Tri-City Storm of the USHL this fall, it's imperative Larsson makes a good impression on the Swedish coaching staff during the WJSS.

While most of his teammates will play in Sweden, he will not.

So, to get an invite to Sweden's world juniors tryout camp, he realized the WJSS could be his only opportunity to leave a lasting impression.

"I had a lot of options. I could play still in Sweden, but I thought to get many games over here (in North America), maybe I'm a backup on a senior team in Sweden, it's a better option for me to keep playing a lot and the option to go to college is a great opportunity for me," Larsson reasoned. "Maybe by Christmas I'm used to these (smaller) rinks, so that's good for me, I may have a bigger chance than a goalie in Sweden to get a chance here (to make the World Junior team)."

Unlike his teammate and fellow Wings prospect Lindstrom, Larsson doesn't seem fazed by playing on the smaller North American ice surface.

"It's more traffic in front of the goal for me; other than that, I don't feel so much of a difference, just the rebounds maybe makes it hard," he said nonchalantly.

LINDSTROM LIKES TO GET PHYSICAL: Wings assistant general manager Ryan Martin said this week that one of the things that surprised him about Lindstrom was the way he played with an edge.

"When it's one-on-one along the boards, you have to be physical to take the puck," Lindstrom said. "I like to play physical and help my teammates to get the puck."

Lindstrom said he has been a physical player for as long as he can remember.

"I think that I always had liked to play physical," Lindstrom said. "That's a very important game. So I like to play physical. That's what I do, I try to do almost all the time."

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