Aleksi Saarela scored twice for host nation Finland against Russia and Slovak goalie Adam Huska stopped 32 of 34 Czech shots faced on a strong third day for NYR prospects at the World Junior Championship in Helsinki.
Saarela, voted player of the game, tallied two goals in a wide-open contest that swung dramatically both ways before finally going to the Russians, 6-4. He first converted a Jesse Puljujärvi feed from behind the net for a powerplay marker in the slot and then jammed home a loose puck that was eventually deemed to have crossed the line after a long review by officials.
Saarela (2-1-3) has made the most of his spot on their top powerplay unit with big 2016 prospects Puljujärvi, Patrik Laine and Carolina draft pick Sebastian Aho so far, while skating third-line minutes at even strength in both group games. Saarela has perhaps been the best player for Finland; more dependable and consistent at both ends of the ice than some of his more explosive team-mates. He's a safety net that has really leaned on his smarts.
Earlier in the day, fellow 2015 selection Adam Huska - also named player of the game - turned aside 32 shots for Slovakia in a hard-luck 2-0 loss to David Pastrnak and the Czech Republic. Huska (1-1 with a 2.00 GAA and .933 SV%) was strong in net and kept his team alive against a dominant Czech side.
Brandon Halverson was again scratched in favor of Alex Nedeljkovic for the USA against Sweden.
Saarela and Finland next play on Wednesday evening when they meet Huska's Slovakia in a crucial group-stage game at Hartwall Arena.