The 2019 IIHF World Junior Championships concluded on Saturday in Vancouver, British Columbia, with more than 40 Selects alumni in action during the 10-team tournament. In the championship game between Finland and USA, 17 of those alumni would battle it out in a 3-2 finish in which the Finns claimed their third gold medal in six years.
A pair of ‘99 West Coast Selects scored two goals for Team USA 1:46 apart from each other as Sasha Chmelevski and Josh Norris picked up tallies to tie the game at 2-2 in the second period. In the game’s waning moments, though, former ‘01 Finland Selects forward Anton Lundell set up the game-winning goal by Kaapo Kakko with just 1:26 remaining in regulation.
The 3-2 victory capped off a spectacular run in which eight Selects alumni helped lead Finland to a gold medal. Led by captain and former ‘99 Finland Selects forward Aarne Talvitie, the Finns finished the tournament with a 5-2-0 overall record.
An overtime upset of Team Canada in the quarterfinals with ‘00 Finland Selects defenseman Toni Utunen scoring the deciding goal would propel them through the semis and into a rematch with Team USA. After falling to the U.S. 4-1 in pool-play, the rematch would be go Finland’s way with late-game heroics and tournament-winning goal with under two minutes left to play.
The IIHF World Junior Championships have featured more than 250 Selects alumni in the last decade, and with eight former players on Finland – Lundell, Talvitie, Utunen, Kakko, Filip Lindberg, Eeli Tolvanen, Santeri Virtanen and Urho Vaakanainen – this year, it became the most on one team to win a gold medal as well.
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