Ryan Poehling, Oliver Wahlstrom and Team USA meets Finland in the gold medal game of the 2019 World Juniors. (Photo: Getty Images)
Ryan Poehling, Oliver Wahlstrom and Team USA meets Finland in the gold medal game of the 2019 World Juniors. (Photo: Getty Images)

For the second time in three years and for just the sixth time ever, the United States U-20 team will be playing for a gold medal at the World Juniors on Saturday when it takes on Finland from Vancouver, B.C.

It's a triumphant return to the title game after a loss in last year's semifinal to Sweden ruined any hopes of a repeat. As a developing world power on the World Juniors stage, the United States has won four gold medals since the competition began in 1974, all of which have come beginning in 2004. 

The United States is coming off an impressive victory over the previously undefeated Russians in the semifinal on Friday evening. Goals from New York Islanders prospect Oliver Wahlstrom and San Jose Sharks draft pick Alexander Chmelevski was just enough to squeak past the defensively-stout Russia in a 2-1 win. 

Finland joined the United States in the gold medal game after easily moving past Switzerland 6-1, which was sparked by a four-goal first period. Both semifinalists were a major surprise, though, as Switzerland upset perennial preliminary-round powerhouses Sweden before Finland shocked the hosts Canada in overtime in the quarterfinals. It's just the fourth time since 1989 that the Canadians failed to finish in the top four of the World Juniors. 

 

Saturday's gold medal game will provide both teams with the largest stage of their young careers. Most notably, all eyes will be on American star Jack Hughes, who could use a strong performance in the championship match as an opportunity to further solidify his ranking as the top prospect in the 2019 NHL Draft class. 

Hughes has battled injury at the World Juniors, missing a pair of preliminary-round games. He has three assists in four appearances at the tournament but has yet to light the lamp.

While Ryan Poehling is in a share for the tournament lead with eight points (5 G, 3 A), he's been held pointless in the medal round as the United States offense has slowed, scoring just five goals in their last two games. 

The heroics of goaltender Cayden Primeau, a Montreal Canadiens prospect, has played a huge factor as to why the Americans are in contention for a fifth gold medal. After holding the Czech Republic to a goal on 16 shots in the quarterfinals he saved 32 of 33 shots against the Russians on Friday. He's 4-0-0 with a .945 save percentage at the 2019 World Juniors. 

He'll be tasked in stopping a Finnish squad that has scored 19 goals in its last five games. But these two teams have already faced each other during the preliminary round which the United States won 4-1. Primeau turned away 28 of Finland's 29 shots that game while Vancouver Canucks prospect Tyler Madden picked up a pair of goals. 

The US will be hoping for a repeat of the New Year's Eve meeting while Finland looks for its third gold medal since 2014. 

Here is how you can catch all the action:

USA vs. Finland viewing information: 2019 World Juniors Gold Medal Game

Date: Saturday, Jan. 5

Time: 8 p.m. ET

TV: NHL Network (USA), TSN (Canada)

Live Stream: Reddit

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