Vancouver, British Columbia — Kaapo Kakko beat goalie Cayden Primeau on a backhander off a rebound with 1:26 left to give Finland its fifth world junior hockey title, 3-2 over the United States on Saturday night.
Kakko broke a tie after the United States rallied on goals by Alexander Chmelevski and Josh Norris in a 1:46 span midway through the third. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made 26 saves for Finland.
“We showed at the end of the tournament why we are one of the best teams,” Luukkonen said. “We have grown up as players and a group.”
On the winning play, Anton Lundell won the draw in the U.S. zone and defenseman Henri Jokirharju got the puck at the blue line. Lundell couldn’t bang in the rebound from Jokiharju’s shot, but Kakko backhanded it past Primeau’s outstretched right pad. Primeau stopped 28 shots.
“At the end of the day it’s about who stops the puck more,” said Primeau, a freshman at Northeastern. “We didn’t get that on our side so that’s why we came up short.”
Jesse Ylonen opened the scoring on a power play midway through the second period, and Otto Latvala made it 2-0 in the third – 1:01 before the U.S. began the rally.
Finland beat Canada 2-1 in overtime in the quarterfinals and topped Switzerland 6-1 in the semifinals.
“We have shown it from the Canada game on we have grown up as a group,” Luukkonen said. “We kept playing better in every game. That was the biggest thing for us. Every team that comes here comes to win the gold medal. We had our ups and downs in the tournament. In the end we got the gold medal so there is nothing more we can ask.”
Finland also won titles in 1987, 1998, 2014 and 2016. The U.S. won the last of its four titles in 2017.
In the third-place game, Kirill Slepets had a hat trick and Russia beat Switzerland 5-2.
Klim Kostin and Nikita Shashkov also scored for Russia, and Pyotr Kochetkov stopped 34 shots. Valentin Nussbaumer and Yannick Bruschweiler scored for Switzerland, and Luca Hollenstein made 19 saves.
The United States faced Finland later Saturday in the title game.