Finland has won the World Junior Championship for under-20-year-old men’s hockey, with Kaapo Kakko scoring the winning goal with less than one and half minutes left on the clock.
The young Lions beat the second-place US team 3-2 in an exciting final match. A US goal in the first period was waved off because of a controversial crease violation ruling after a video check, meaning that the game was scoreless into the second period.
Finland’s forward Jesse Ylönen capitalized on a power play opportunity halfway through the second period to score Finland’s first point in the match, with help from Oskari Laaksonen.
At the top of the third period, Otto Latvala surprised US goalkeeper Cayden Primeau with a shot to the net. This put Finland ahead 2-0 with under 15 minutes to go in the match.
A mere minute after Latvala’s goal, Team USA’s Alexander Chmelevski scored a goal, and 90 seconds later the US team managed to tie the game at 2-2.
With just a minute and a half left on the clock, Finland’s 17-year-old Kaapo Kakko scored the game-winning goal – thereby securing himself the player of the game honours. The winning point was Kakko’s second goal and fifth point in the seven-game tournament.
Goalie Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made 26 saves for Finland in the final match.
“The boys were fantastic; they really gave it their all. Even after they evened it up, we didn’t lose faith,” the young Lions’ head coach Jussi Ahokas enthused.
The world championship is the Finnish junior men’s team’s fifth, with previous titles dating back to 1987, 1998, 2014 and 2016.