ICE HOCKEY: Kakko’s late goal wins World U-20 Champs for Finland

Finland celebrates another World U-20 title (Photo: Matt Zambonin/HHOF-IIHF Images)

For most of the game, the final of the IIHF men’s World U-20 Championships had Finland in control over the United States team.

Then it didn’t.

Then, in the end, it did.

The Finns had a 1-0 lead going into the third period, when Otto Latvala scored six minutes into the period at the Rogers Arena in Vancouver (CAN) and took what appeared to be a commanding, two-goal edge.

But then Alexander Chmelevski got a goal for the U.S. on a rebound with 12:59 to go and it was a game again. And the U.S. tied it just 1:46 later with a goal from Josh Norris, who rocketed a shot past Finnish keeper Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen off a pass from Chmelevski and the game was tied.

While the 17,206 mostly-Canadian fans were chanting, “Let’s go, Finland!,” the Finns kept working and with just 1:26 to play, Kaapo Kakko backhanded a rebound from a shot by defenseman Henri Jokiharju and got it past American goalie Cayden Primeau. That made it 3-2 for Finland and that’s how it ended.

Finland out-shot the U.S., 31-28, for the and killed off five penalties against a strong U.S. power-play squad.

This was the fifth World U-20 title for Finland and the third in the last six years, in 2014-16-18. The U.S. men won a medal for the fourth straight year and 12th all-time.

Russia beat surprise semifinalist Switzerland for the bronze medal, 5-2. The final standings:

1. Finland
2. United States
3. Russia
4. Switzerland
5. Sweden
6. Canada
7. Czech Republic
8. Slovakia
9. Kazakhstan
10. Denmark

The individual awards included:

By the IIHF Directorate:

  • Best Goaltender: Pyotr Kochetkov (RUS)
  • Best Defenseman: Alexander Romanov (RUS)
  • Best Forward: Ryan Poehling (USA)

Media All-Star Team & Most Valuable Player:

  • Goalkeeper: Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (FIN)
  • Defense: Alexander Romanov (RUS) and Eric Brannstrom (SWE)
  • Forwards: Grigori Denisenko (RUS), Philipp Kurashev (SUI) and Ryan Poehling (USA)
  • Most Valuable Player: Ryan Poehling (USA)

The top scorer was Russia’s Denisenko, with 9 points, including four goals and five assists. Finland’s Aleksi Heponiemi also had nine points (3+6), followed by Artur Gatiyatov (KAZ: 8: 5+3), Poehling (8: 5+3), Canada’s Morgan Frost (8: 4+4) and Russian defenseman Romanov, who had eight points (1+7).