Photos by Richard Wolowicz (HHOF-IIHF Images).
LAPPEENRANTA, Finland - Kyle Connor (Shelby Township, Mich.) extended his scoring streak to four games, and Jack Eichel (North Chelmsford, Mass.) scored the game-winning goal, as the U.S. Men's National Under-18 Team defeated Finland, 4-3, here tonight at Lappeenranta Arena. With the win, Team USA clinches the top seed in Group B at the 2014 International Ice Hockey Federation Men's Under-18 World Championship with a 3-0-0-1 (W-OTW-OTL-L) record.
Finland opened the scoring at the 9:54 mark of the first frame. Late in the opening period, Finland was whistled for a tripping call on Dylan Larkin (Waterford, Mich.). Nine seconds later on the ensuing power play, Noah Hanifin (Norwood, Mass.) collected the puck and threw a hard shot at the net that snuck past Kaapo Kahkonen to knot the game at one goal apiece.
Team USA took the lead 19 seconds into the second stanza when Larkin found Anders Bjork (Mequon, Wis.) near the top of the faceoff circle. Bjork fired a wrist shot to beat Kahkonen for the score. Back-to-back tallies by the Finns at 5:42 and 13:53 reclaimed the lead for the hosts before Connor answered for the United States with less than one second showing on the scoreboard. Hanifin and Auston Matthews (Scottsdale, Ariz.) assisted on the play.
The final frame remained scoreless, and the game tied, until 1:04 remained in the contest. Eichel took a pass from Sonny Milano (Massapequa, N.Y.) and tucked the puck between his legs onto his forehand. Eichel quickly fired a shot that caromed off Kahkonen and into the net to secure the 4-3 victory for Team USA.
The U.S. Men's National Under-18 Team will next skate in the quarterfinals of the U18 World Championship on Thursday (April 24) at 6 a.m. EDT. Having earned the top seed in Group B, Team USA will cross over to face Slovakia, the fourth seed in Group A. The game will be broadcast live on FASTHockey.