VANCOUVER — Finland is taking home gold from this year’s world junior hockey championship after beating the United States 3-2 in a dramatic final on Saturday.
Seventeen-year-old Kaapo Kakko scored the game-winner with just over a minute-and-a-half to go in the third period.
The Americans had clawed their way back from a two-goal deficit in the third period with goals from Josh Norris and Alexander Chmelevski.
Jesse Ylonen and Otto Latvala also scored for Finland.
Cayden Primeau stopped 28-of-31 for the U.S., as Finnish netminder Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen made 25 saves.
Finland started the scoring, putting away a power-play goal 11:31 into the second period after U.S. forward Evan Barratt was called for goalie interference.
The Finns won a faceoff and got the puck to Ylonen, who wound up and blew a rocket past Primeau.
The Montreal Canadiens prospect had three goals and three assists in the tournament.
Latvala padded his team’s lead six minutes into the third period, using a series of screens to block Primeau’s view of his high shot.
The Americans responded 61 seconds later when Chmelevski took a shot from down near the Finnish goal line that found its way through traffic into the net.
The San Jose Sharks prospect also helped tie the game up 8:47 into the frame, dishing a pass across the ice to Norris, who put the puck past Luukkonen to make it 2-2.
The Americans also had a flurry of power-play chances throughout the game, and thought they had scored on one only to have it overturned by video review.
Oliver Wahlstrom put back a rebound, but officials determined it was a no goal because Chmelevski was in the crease.
The U.S. finished 0-for-5 with the man advantage.
Earlier in the day, Russia beat Switzerland 5-2 to capture bronze.
Canada finished sixth after losing to Finland in the quarterfinals on Wednesday.
Finland posted a convincing 6-1 win over Switzerland in the semifinals. But the team’s performance was lacklustre through the group phase of this year’s tournament, with victories over Slovakia and Russia and losses to Sweden and the U.S.
The Americans lost a single game in the round-robin, dropping a 5-4 overtime decision to Sweden on Dec. 29.
They punched their ticket to the finals by beating the Czechs 3-1 on Wednesday, then downing the Russians 2-1 on Friday.
Next year’s tournament will be held in the Czech Republic.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press