Finland jumps Sweden as captain Mikko Rantanen heats up

Mikko Rantanen (left) celebrates (photo by Sarah Fuqua)

HELSINKI, FINLAND – Swedish defenseman William Lagesson let out a primal scream, then loudly muttered to himself as he stalked off the ice. The rugged Edmonton Oilers prospect had, after all, managed to shut down Finnish super-teen Jesse Puljujarvi; something unheard of in this edition of the world juniors. But while Puljujarvi’s deadly line with Carolina pick Sebastian Aho and another 2016 draft phenom, Patrik Laine, was held off the scoresheet, Finland had a Plan B.

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How Sweden’s Linus Soderstrom is living – and thriving – with Asperger Syndrome

Linus Soderstrom (photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images)

HELSINKI, FINLAND – Through five games at the world juniors, Sweden rolled. The Tre Kronor were scoring in bunches, but also getting incredible goaltending from starter Linus Soderstrom. The New York Islanders prospect surrendered just five goals in four appearances, including a 46-save shutout against the U.S. in a 1-0 game the Americans swear they should have won, had it not been for the kid in the other net. So perhaps that kid’s public announcement right before the tournament came at the best time possible.

Soderstrom, as it turns out, has Asperger Syndrome.

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Did goaltending matter in a 6-5 game? Ask the Finns

Kaapo Kahkonen (photo by Markku Ulander/AFP/Getty Images)

HELSINKI, FINLAND – We knew pretty early on in this tournament that Finland could score, but could the Young Lions keep the puck out of their own net? In the round robin, that was no guarantee. Russia strafed them for six in a loss, while the Czechs got four past the Finns in a game the hosts would win 5-4.

So yes, it appears as though the Finns played with fire again in their quarterfinal win over Canada (which had a 6-5 score), but talk to the players and they’ll tell you the goalie change made early in the second period really helped get them on track. Out came Veini Vehvilainen and in came Kaapo Kahkonen.

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Canada doomed by immaturity at world juniors

Sebastian Aho killed Canada (Photo by Markku Ulander/AFP/Getty Images)

HELSINKI, FINLAND – In a perfect world, Canada would have played the same way in the final two periods of the quarterfinal as it did in the first 19 minutes of the game against Finland: smart, responsible hockey. One penalty taken, one penalty killed off.

But that’s not how things went down at Hartwall Arena on Saturday night. Canada racked up the infractions in the second and third periods, giving Finland’s lethal snipers too many opportunities and taking out important players such as Joe Hicketts and Mitch Marner at the wrong times. On top of that, the game turned into a track meet and Finland had more, well, finish.

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Sweden’s youngsters are wrecking the curve at the world juniors

Dmytro Timashov (photo by  Roni Rekomaa/AFP/Getty Images)

HELSINKI, FINLAND – Conventional wisdom dictated that Sweden’s offensive charge at the 2016 world juniors would be led by the veterans. William Nylander, Axel Holmstrom, Oskar Lindblom and Adrian Kempe all came in with great resumes and experience. But wouldn’t you know it? The Tre Kronor has actually been paced by three youngsters who are absolutely flying out there.

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Finland’s twin draft demons are not messing around at the world juniors

Patrik Laine (#29) and Jesse Puljujarvi (photo by Heikki Saukkomaa/AFP/Getty Images)

HELSINKI, FINLAND – Jesse Puljujarvi and Patrik Laine have a lot of hype around them right now. Not only have they inspired a McDavid vs. Eichel style of debate and coverage in Finland this season, but the two 2016 draft prospects also have a world junior tournament to win on home ice. So far, they have punished the competition, with Canada looming in the quarterfinal.

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