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Penn State Hockey Reflects On Evan Barratt, Aarne Talvitie’s Quest For Gold At World Junior Championship

The 2019 U-20 World Junior Championship may not be the most-watched hockey tournament in the United States, but super fans who grew up playing the fastest game on ice probably had their eyes glued to the TV throughout the 10-day tournament.

“Oh yeah, I probably watched the World Juniors every year growing up,” Penn State defenseman Kevin Kerr said.

This year’s World Junior championship took on even more significance for the Nittany Lions. Forwards Aarne Talvitie and Evan Barratt competed at the tournament, and both brought a medal back to Happy Valley after spending nearly a month in Western Canada.

Talvitie and the Finns got their revenge with a 3-2 victory in the gold medal game at Rogers Arena in Vancouver after losing to Barratt and the Americans in the 2017 U-18 World Junior Championship. Finland went up 2-0 with 14 minutes to play in the third period, but goals from Team USA’s Sasha Chmlevski and Josh Norris tied the game with more than 10 minutes to play.

The game seemed destined for overtime, but Kaapo Kakko buried a late winning goal to give Finland the tournament victory for the third time in six years. Talvitie became the sixth player in college hockey history to captain his team to a gold medal at the World Junior Championship, while Barratt took home a silver medal.

“It was the best-case scenario in terms of them playing against each other for the gold,” head coach Guy Gadowsky said. “What an unbelievable experience for those two. For our program, we have to feel really good. To say now we have a gold and silver medalist is really nice.”

Barratt scored a game-winning goal for the United States and appeared in all of his team’s matches throughout the tournament. He played on Team USA’s second line along with Noah Cates and Tyler Madden, two fellow NHL Draft picks of the Philadelphia Flyers and Vancouver Canucks, respectively.

Meanwhile, Talvitie made a serious case to win the tournament’s MVP award as he captained Finland to the title. He scored four goals and added three assists in seven games before suffering an apparent lower-body injury in the gold medal game. His status for Penn State’s weekend series against Michigan State is unknown since he appears to still be celebrating in Finland.

The Finnish team pulled off an upset heard ’round the hockey world in the quarterfinal round when it beat Canada — the tournament’s host nation and favorite to win the gold medal — to secure a spot in the semifinals against Switzerland. Talvitie recorded the primary assist on Toni Utunen’s game-winning goal in overtime.

That quarterfinal matchup presented Gadowsky and Penn State’s Canadian players with a bit of a dilemma, but alternate captain Brandon Biro chose to take a diplomatic approach to that game.

“Whoever won, it was kind of a win-win situation for me,” said Biro, an Alberta native and Talvitie’s mentor this season. “If Aarne wasn’t so involved in the [game-winning goal], it would’ve been nice to see Canada move on.”

Talvitie will bring lots of things back to Happy Valley with him from that trip, including a shiny gold medal, national pride, and (perhaps most importantly) bragging rights over his teammates and coaches.

“The gold medal is obviously a tremendous accomplishment,” Gadowsky said. “Maybe when he gets back, he’ll start ribbing me a little bit.”

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About the Author

Mikey Mandarino

Mikey is a senior majoring in journalism and Onward State's Sports Editor. He grew up in Bedminster, NJ and is way too obnoxious about all the best things his home state has to offer. Mikey loves to play golf, but he sucks at it because golf is hard. If you're dying to see more hockey/golf content on your timeline, you can follow Mikey on Twitter @mikey_mandarino. Send all hate mail, death threats, and your vote for the best chicken parm in State College to [email protected]

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