LILLEHAMMER – The United States opened its 2016 Youth Olympic campaign with a 4-1 win over defending Youth Olympic champions Finland.
TJ Walsh scored the game winner and goaltender Todd Scott shut down the Finns after giving up an early goal.
“It was the first time playing with these guys, now we know what we got and we can bring it,” said forward Tyler Weiss, who capped off the American victory with a highlight-reel penalty shot in the third period.
Finland, fresh off an 11-0 thumping of tournament hosts Norway, got right back on the scoreboard early against the Americans, with a shot by Samuel Salonen from the left circle finding its way to the back of the net.
But Team USA’s defence did a good job managing the Finnish offence the rest of the way, keeping their forwards away from goaltender Todd Scott, who played a solid game and made a few key stops including a save on a Finnish breakaway early in the first that would have put the them up 2-0.
“Definitely a team effort, everybody knew their role and did their job,” said Scott after the game. “I can lean on them and they can lean on me and we all did our best.”
Following Scott’s save the American offence woke up when forward Jack Deboer made a nice cross ice pass through the neutral zone to teammate Jake Wise, who ripped a shot straight into the top corner to tie the game with 6:21 remaining in the period.
Then TJ Walsh put the U.S. in front on a breakaway goal, finishing off Finnish goalie Jimi Uusitalo with a backhand deke between the legs. U.S. defenceman Christian Krygier gave his team some breathing room with a goal early in the second period.
With the 3-1 lead Scott and the American defence held the fort the rest of the way, adding another goal, this time from a gorgeous triple backhand deke from Tyler Weiss to drop Finland to 1W-1L on the tournament.
“We didn’t get goals,” said captain Toni Utunen. “I think we have a very good team with a lot of potential. We just need to get more shots and play as a team.”
The Finns have another tough matchup against in two days against Canada, which lost in its opener to Russia earlier in the day.
Team USA plays tomorrow against tournament hosts Norway.