2024 Worlds Game Preview: USA vs Finland

Team USA plays Finland for the first time at Worlds since 2022 tonight.

2024 Worlds Game Preview: USA vs Finland
Team USA players celebrate a goal against Finland during the 2022 Worlds. Photo courtesy of the IIHF.

After cruising to two straight shutout wins to open the tournament, Team USA takes on Finland tonight in the second half of their back-to-back.

The Basics: Saturday, April 6, 2024 – USA vs Finland – 7 p.m. EDT, Adirondack Bank Center, Utica, NY (NHL Network, TSN5)

What to Expect

Barnes skates with the puck while Karvinen defends. Barnes is in the lead, hunched over with her stick outstretched and the puck in front of her. Karvinen is hunched over skating and reaching around Barnes with her stick. Barnes is in navy blue, while Karvinen is in white.
Cayla Barnes skates with the puck while Michelle Karvinen defends during the 2022 Worlds. Photo courtesy of the IIHF.

Team USA is coming into this one fresh off a 6-0 beatdown of Czechia last night. Their offensive has been utterly dominant in the first two games of the tournament, mounting crushing pressure to crack two goaltenders giving outstanding performances. In their opener on Wednesday, they outshot Switzerland a whopping 55-11 while winning 4-0. Their defense and goaltending has also been strong when needed. They’ll be looking to keep cruising tonight before Monday’s top-dog showdown with Canada.

Meanwhile, Finland comes into this one after suffering a 4-1 loss to Canada on Thursday. It was a solid outing from the Finns, who were only outshot 24-20 while largely keeping the game closer than the scoresheet says. Despite the loss, they did a respectable job avenging their 4-0 loss to rival Czechia the night before. The Czechs kept them to the perimeter for most of the night and really didn’t allow the Finnish offense to get going. It was a damaging blow to their seeding hopes for the knockout round, but that shouldn’t be too big of a concern for them if they can keep playing like they did Thursday. So, look for Finland to continue building momentum in tonight’s game, where they’ll also have the bonus of fresher legs.

Ahola makes a save against Canada. She is on her knees and kicking the puck out to her left. She is wearing her St. Cloud State mask and white Finland uniform to go along with black pads.
Sanni Ahola makes a save against Canada during the 2024 Worlds. Photo courtesy of the IIHF.

In goal for Finland, look for Sanni Ahola to get the start. The netminder is the clear-cut number one and started both games of the back-to-back to open the tournament. She allowed six goals in the two losses (two of Czechia’s goals were empty-netters) and has a solid 0.910 SV% to show for it along with a 3.06 GAA. She’s likely to start every game for Finland this tournament, so it’d be a shock not to see her tonight.

For the United States, it’ll be Aerin Frankel in goal. It’s the second half of a back-to-back, and Hensley started yesterday, so this one’s a no-brainer. Despite facing few shots, Frankel was great in Wednesday’s shutout win over Switzerland. She made just 11 saves, but several of them were big ones, particularly in the scoreless first period. She’ll likely be a bit busier tonight, although still not overly taxed, but either way you can expect another solid performance.

USA Key to the Game

Harvey (left) dishes the puck as Holopainen (right) tried to block it. Harvey is hunched over making the pass, while Holopainen is nearly in a sitting position as she comes to a stop. Harvey is in navy blue, while Holopainen is in white
Caroline Harvey dishes the puck as Elisa Holopainen goes to block it during the 2022 Worlds. Photo courtesy of the IIHF.

Let the puck do the work. As mentioned earlier, the U.S. enters this game in the second half of a back-to-back, while Finland will have fresh legs after not playing since Thursday. So the Americans’ legs are bound to be a little heavier, especially towards the end of the game. They need to let the puck do most of the work to keep as fresh as possible. This is not the time to overcomplicate things or overskate the puck. To build off what I was always told in youth hockey, not only does the puck move faster than you, but it moves a lot more effortlessly too. Let it.