3 Star keys for United States against Finland in WJC semifinals


The NHL Network will air every game of the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship at Rogers Place in Edmonton.

It includes comprehensive coverage of the United States national junior team, which will play Finland in the semifinal round of the tournament on Monday (9:30 p.m. ET). The United States won 5-2 against Slovakia in the quarterfinal round Saturday. The championship game is Tuesday.

Longtime NCAA hockey analyst Dave Starman, who will handle the broadcast along with Stephen Nelson, will give his three keys to victory for the United States before each of its games during the 12-day tournament.

“So now they play for hardware,” Starman said. “The top four teams are still standing with gold-medal rematches from the past two years, meeting up in the semifinals. For the United States, the Slovakia game was an up-and-down affair where, at times, they played well and, at times, looked undisciplined from a structure aspect.

“Now they face Finland, the hardest-working team in the tourney.”

Here are Starman’s 3 keys to victory for the United States against Finland:


1. Support game

“For the first time since the loss to Russia (on Dec. 25 in the preliminary round), the U.S. made some decisions with the puck that were more of the high-risk, low-support style. It looked at times that the U.S. got impatient with how close the game was getting and looked for the quick strike versus the methodical approach that has been their staple for three games. Against the Finns, who can shut a surface down and not give an inch, the mantra of U.S. coach Nate Leaman will once again need to be heeded; support is more important than positional play, especially upon leaving the defensive zone.”


2. Physical approach

“Finland would be perfect for the college hockey’s NCHC conference because they demand a price to be paid for your net-front pressure and their defense can be physical. Offensively, they like to get in on pucks, wreak havoc on your breakout, get pucks turned over and attack on a short track. In this way, they have some similarities to the U.S. approach with how well their bottom six has been so good, physically. The U.S. top line, centered by Alex Turcotte (Los Angeles Kings), brings its own form of truculence, and Matthew Boldy (Minnesota Wild) hasn’t been shy to be in hard areas. So throughout the U.S. lineup they have answers.”


3. The Minne-kota back end

“University of North Dakota defenseman Jake Sanderson (Ottawa Senators) can take over a game, and North Dakota defenseman Tyler Kleven (Ottawa Senators) will give the U.S. a heavy, physical presence. The University of Minnesota trio of defensemen, Brock Faber (Los Angeles Kings), Jackson LaCombe (Anaheim Ducks) and Ryan Johnson (Buffalo Sabres), are up-tempo puck movers who can create offense. Minnesota native and Boston College defenseman Drew Helleson (Colorado Avalanche) has steadily gained traction as the tourney has gone on. I think this defense corps will move pucks well, diffuse a lot of up-ice pressure, and help layer attacks that could out-pace the Finland transition.”

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