Finland beat ROC to win country’s first Olympic gold in men’s ice hockey
Finland won its first-ever Olympic gold medal in men’s ice hockey with a 2-1 win over the Russian Olympic Committee on Sunday in Beijing.
Finnish striker Hannes Bjorninen scored the winning goal just 31 seconds into the third period. He added an assist on Ville Pokka’s second-period goal that tied the game after the ROC opened the scoring in the first period.
It was the 18th men’s Olympic ice hockey tournament for Finland, which was undefeated in six games in Beijing. The nation won silver in 1988 and 2006 and won bronze four times (1994, 1998, 2010, 2014) before winning gold.
“It’s hard to put into words what this means. What a tough tournament. I felt like we played well all the time, and that’s the reward,” said Finnish forward Valtteri Filppula, who won the Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings. in 2008. “Hockey is a big thing in Finland. It’s for all of us, that’s for sure.”
Harri Sateri made 16 saves, but it was the Finnish offensive attack and forecheck that won the day. Finland had a 21-14 shot lead after two periods and finished with a 31-17 shot advantage for the game. Russia was aiming for its second consecutive Olympic gold medal in men’s hockey, but not necessarily by name.
Russia competed as the Russian Olympic Committee due to a ban from the World Anti-Doping Agency, which prohibited Russian athletes from wearing their flag or any Russian symbol on their uniforms. This follows IOC sanctions in 2018, when Russian Olympic athletes won gold at the Pyeongchang Olympics.
The ROC opened the scoring with their second shot. With Bjorninen in the box for a high stick penalty, striker Mikhail Grigorenko used a perfectly tuned screen from teammate Pavel Karnaukhov to beat Sateri for a 1-0 lead just 7:17 into the game. Nikita Gusev picked up an assist for his team-leading sixth point.
The Finns tied the game just 3:28 from the start of the second period. Defender Ville Pokka fired a shot just inside the blue line that went through the legs of defender Nikita Nesterov and former goalkeeper Ivan Fedotov to tie the score at 1-1.
The Finns took a 2-1 lead 31 seconds into the third period. The streak started with Fedotov giving the puck to Bjorninen. This sparked a forecheck clinic by Finland that ran the ROC into their own zone. Forward Marko Anttila picked up the puck and sent a wrist shot from high in the zone. He was deflected by Bjorninen for Finland’s first lead.
Former NHL players who have won gold for Finland include forwards Markus Granlund, Valtteri Filppula and Leo Komarov, as well as defensemen Sami Vatanen and Mikko Lehtonen.
“A great team. Great effort. It wasn’t easy for us, but we found the way to win every game,” said Anttila. “We found a way to win those tough games.”
The Beijing Olympics marked the second consecutive Winter Games without the participation of NHL players. Despite an agreement between the NHL and NHLPA to send players to Beijing, the league decided to pull out due to a significant change to its 2021-22 regular season schedule due to COVID-19 postponements.
Finland is not the only Olympic team to make history in Beijing. Slovakia, which eliminated the United States in the quarter-finals, beat Sweden 4-0 to win bronze, its first Olympic medal in men’s hockey.