It’s official – at least one Buffalo Sabres prospect will be leaving the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championships with a medal.
Earlier this morning, Russia – in large part thanks to Mikhail Grigorenko and Nikita Zadorov – defeated the United States 5-3 to move on to the semifinals. Now, Rasmus Ristolainen and Finland defeated the Czech Republic to also secure a spot in the semifinals – but the teams won’t face each other unless they both win and move on to the gold medal game, or both lose and will vie for the bronze.
Ristolainen had three shots on goal as Finland scored four unanswered goals to capture an eventual 5-3 victory over the Czech Republic.
The game began with Finland taking a lead just under three minutes into the game on a goal by Nashville Predators draft pick Saku Maenalanen. Teuvo Teravainen (CHI) and Esa Lindell (DAL) had the assists on Finland’s first goal of the game, but the lead wouldn’t remain for long. The Czech Republic’s Dominik Simon would tie things up just 45 seconds later, assisted by Martin Prochazka and David Pastrnak.
That would be it for the first period, but Czech Republic would score a pair of goals in 3:16 to give themselves a two-goal lead on tallies from Prochazka and Radek Faska (DAL). Simon, Jakub Vrana, Vojtech Tomecek and Dominik Volek all notched assists.
From that point forward, however, it was all Finland.
First, it was Juuso Ikonen making it 3-2 with just under two minutes remaining in the middle frame. Rasmus Kulmala notched his first assist of the game.
Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Henri Ikonen would open the scoring for Finland in the third period, with an assist credited to Mikko Lehtonen. Saku Kinnunen would give Finland its second lead of the game just under six minutes later, with Juuso Ikonen and Kulmala adding assists. Finally, Maenalanen would add an empty-netter with 15 seconds remaining to seal the win, and the semifinal berth, for the Finns. Teravainen added his second assist of the night on the empty-net goal.
Ristolainen has one goal, two penalty minutes and 10 shots on goal in three games of play during the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championships.
Moving forward, Russia will face the winner of a Sweden vs. Slovakia matchup happening later today, while Finland will face Canada.
All of the upcoming semifinals games will be played on January 4 and will be televised on NHL Network. The winners of those semifinal games will go on to compete for the gold (and silver) medals, while the losers will compete for the bronze medal and fourth place.
Of course – you know what that means. If Russia goes on to win their semifinal game, and Finland wins theirs, we’ll get the opportunity to see Grigorenko and Zadorov face off against Ristolainen for the gold medal. Or alternately, if both teams lose their respective semifinal games, they’ll face each other to compete for bronze.
Either way, at least one Buffalo Sabres prospect will walk away from this year’s tournament with a medal, which is something that Buffalo Sabres fans should be proud of.