Hockey is officially back in Alberta’s capital as the World Junior Championship opened with country versus country hockey action with two tune-up games to kick off the international tournament. A Calgary Flames prospect saw game-action too, as their 2019 7th round pick Dustin Wolf suited up for United States in the second game of the night against Finland.
After Switzerland bested Austria by a score of 3-2, the Americans similarly picked up a 3-2 win against the Finns in a game whose score line was much tighter than the game was. USA manhandled Finland up and down the ice, and carried the run of play through much of it.
The rust showed for both teams, with different stories on either side. Where Finland struggled to get shots on net with a game total of 16, USA conversely peppered the Finnish goals with 45 shots of their own. What could have been a blow out game for USA was dampened by poor finishing ability.
Juuso Parssinen (2019 7th round pick – NSH) scored the game’s first goal early in the first period on the power play, in which USA answered a goal from Arthur Kaliyev (2019 2nd round pick – LAK) in the dying seconds of the period. In the first two minutes of the second period, Cole Caufield (2019 1st round pick – MTL) scored twice in 35 seconds for Team USA to put them up by two goals. Topi Niemela (2020 3rd round pick – TOR) scored for Finland shortly after, but that would be it for both teams in terms of scoring.
Flames Prospect Rundown
For Flames fans, Wolf is one of four prospects who will appear in this year’s tournament. He got in for the second half of the game, switching out with Spencer Knight (2019 1st round pick – FLA) about midway through the second period. In Wolf’s appearance, he stopped all seven shots he faced, not one of which troubled him at all. Finland scored both of their goals on the power play against Knight in the front half of the game, and neither goal was particularly soft against him for that matter.
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The good news is that Wolf played a quality game of hockey. He stopped everything he faced, he made a couple good passes up ice from his crease, and although he did give the puck away a couple times, his teammates were there to bail him out.
The bad news is Finland did not have enough quality chances in order for Wolf to really make a case to take the starting job for Team USA. The best Finnish chances came in the opening half of the game, and they appeared a little bit lost by the time Wolf was in the crease. This is a bit of a disappointment for him, as he must have been hoping to see more hockey action having not played since March.
Flames up next
Team USA will officially start their tournament against Flames prospect Yan Kuznetsov and Team Russia on Christmas Day at 7:30 p.m. MST in the qualifying round. Spencer Knight will likely get the start again for USA, but for Wolf’s sake (and as a patriotic Canadian), here is to hoping Knight gets pulled and Wolf comes in to steal the crease.
As for the other two Flames prospects, Canadians Connor Zary and Jakob Pelletier will matchup against Kuznetsov and Russia later today at 4 p.m. MST in a tune-up game, and Team Canada will play their first qualifying game on Boxing Day against Germany, also at 4 p.m. MST.