Skip to main content
Team North America

Team North America pulling for Team Finland

Win against Team Russia on Thursday would put 23-and-under roster in semifinals

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / Director of Editorial

TORONTO -- Team Finland will have a bandwagon full of fans for its final game of the World Cup of Hockey 2016, even if those supporters are wearing black and orange instead of the traditional national team colors of blue and white.

Every fan of Team North America, which wears the black-and-orange uniforms in this tournament, will be a fan of Team Finland on Thursday, when Team North America will need Team Finland's help to advance to the semifinals out of Group B.

Eliminated from the tournament Wednesday when Team North America got a point in a 4-3 overtime loss to Team Sweden, Team Finland (0-2-0) can only play spoiler in its final game against Team Russia at Air Canada Centre on Thursday (3 p.m. ET; ESPN, SN, TVA Sports).

Team Sweden (2-0-1, 5 points) has won Group B and plays the runner-up in Group A, Team Europe, in the semifinals on Saturday or Sunday.

"Hopefully we get some help from Finland," Team North America forward Mark Scheifele said. "That will be a game to watch [Thursday]."

Team Russia (1-1-0, 2 points) will advance to the semifinal from Group B with a win of any kind. A loss to Team Finland sends Team Russia home and Team North America into the semis.

"Well, I know there's going to be a large contingent of Canadians and Americans pulling for [Team Finland]," Team North America coach Todd McLellan said. "We've done everything we can as a group of young players [to advance]. We lost one goal by one game, and we could be out. We entertained, and we'd like a chance to continue that. But it's out of our control.

"The Russians are a very good team. The Finns will be very proud; that's the one thing I know about the Finns is they're a proud, proud group. They'll show up and play. It could end up being this type of game [Thursday] night, and we'll end up watching every minute of it."

Team Finland wishes it was playing for a semifinal berth, not as spoiler. But this game is against one of its traditional rivals, which should provide added motivation.

"It's almost same thing as against Sweden; it's a big rivalry," Team Finland center Aleksander Barkov said. "We want to beat them and they want to beat us."

Video: NAT@SWE: MacKinnon shows off silky mitts on OT winner

Team Finland might just be hitting a stride, so perhaps an upset is possible.

Team Finland looked like a different team in a 2-0 loss to Team Sweden on Tuesday than it did in a 4-1 loss to Team North America on Sunday in the opening game of the tournament for each team. 

"We knew this would be a short tournament and we had to be ready in the first game, but we weren't," Team Finland forward Patrik Laine said. "You can't do nothing about that any more. We just have to win the next game."

To do that, Team Finland will have to score at least one goal, and likely several more. That has been its primary problem in this tournament with one goal scored in 120 minutes.

Video: FIN@SWE: Rask stretches out to deny Landeskog in 1st

But Team Finland was dangerous against Team Sweden, frustrated by the brilliance of goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

"Sometimes you think how come it is so difficult [to score], but I think we just have to do a few things better; how we screen the goalie, the quality of our shots, those things," Team Finland coach Lauri Marjamaki said. "Of course, we don't have a scorer like [Teemu] Selanne or anyone else, but I feel we have good forwards."

Laine has been one of Team Finland's best forwards, and many predict the 18-year-old will be the next superstar from Finland. He was dominant at the 2016 World Championship when Finland earned the silver medal, losing to Canada in the final. Finland defeated host Russia in the semifinal, and Laine had the assist on the winning goal by Jussi Jokinen.

Laine is expected to play in the NHL this season for the Winnipeg Jets, who selected him with the No. 2 pick in this year's draft. Scheifele is already a member of the Jets and plans to put his club ties to work to help out Team North America.

"I'm going to arrange a massage [for] Patrik," said Scheifele, "and make sure he's getting a good night's sleep."

View More