December 27, 1998

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (12/26/98) – The United States opened play at the World Junior Hockey Championship with a 6-3 loss Saturday night to defending champion Finland, in front of 7,609 fans at the Winnipeg Arena.

Notre Dame sophomore left wing Dan Carlson (Edina, Minn.) did not factor into any of the USA scoring. Carlson, who skated on the second forward line during the pre-tournament scrimmages versus Sweden (information unavailable for Saturday’s game), is the third Irish forward to play for the USA junior national team during the past three years. Current Notre Dame juniors Ben Simon and Joe Dusbabek skated on last year’s USA fifth-place team while Simon was a member of the 1997-98 silver-medal-winning team.

In other opening-day action of the 10-team tournament that is being held in six Manitoba cities, Sweden preceded Finland’s win with a 4-2 victory over Russia, Switzerland rallied to beat Belarus 4-3 in Selkirk and Slovakia upset the Czech Republic 3-2 in Brandon.

Host country Canada and Kazahkstan were idle on Saturday, with Canada set to face Slovakia on Sunday in Brandon while Kazahkstan and Belarus will meet Sunday night in Portage.

The USA will return to action on Monday in Brandon vs. the Czech Republic, with Monday’s other games to include: Switzerland-Sweden (3:00 p.m. Winnipeg), Canada-Finland (8:00 p.m., Winnipeg) and Russia-Kazakhstan (8:00 p.m., Portage). The USA’s other remaining games in the two-division, round-robin format include Dec. 30 vs. Slovakia (8:00 p.m., Selkirk) and Dec. 31 vs. Canada (6:00 p.m., Winnipeg). The playoff and medal rounds then will follow from Jan. 2-5.

The New Year’s Eve matchup between the USA and Canada will be televised across America, including live 6:00 p.m. eastern time broadcasts by Comcast and Fox Sports New England. Tape-delayed broadcasts of the USA-Canada game will include: Midwest Sports Channel on Jan. 1 at 7:00 p.m. central time; Fox Sports Detroit on Jan. 2 at 4:00 p.m. eastern; and Empire Sports Network on Jan. 7 at 7:00 p.m. eastern.

Six different players scored Saturday for Finland, who looked in trouble when the U.S. closed to 4-3 by the end of the second period. The Finnish goalscorers included Eero Somervuori, Ilkka Mikkola, Olli Ahonen, Jani Rita, Tommi Santala and Teemu Elomo.

Boston College sophomore right wing Brian Gionta scored two goals for Team USA, including a goal at the 10:57 mark of the first period to forge a 1-1 tie. Finland then scored three straight times to take a 4-1 lead before goals by Tim Connolly and Gionta cut the margin to 4-3. Finland goaltender Mika Noronen made 26 saves while the USA’s Chris stopped 27 of 33 shots.

The tournament’s organizers announced on Saturday that Manitoba has set a record for most tickets sold (147,852 as of Dec. 26) at any World Junior Hockey Championship, since the tournament began in 1977. The previous record of 146,852 was set in 1985-86 by the organizing committee in Hamilton, Ontario. A total of 19,070 spectators watched the opening day of this year’s tournament, which included four games in three cities.