Team Finland has captured its very first Olympic gold medal in the sport of hockey.
Just days after its women’s team captured bronze in the female tournament, the men representing Finland took home the gold medal in a 2-1 upset over the heavily favoured Russian team. Winning the game in a come-from-behind fashion, the Finns rallied after falling behind to the Russian Olympic Committee at 7:17 of the first period, when Mikhail Grigorenko gave his mates an early 1-0 lead on a power play strike.
But Finnish netminder Harri Sateri held down the fort from there on. Finishing the game by stopping 16 of the 17 shots he faced, Sateri looked very comfortable in net for Finland, shutting down Russia’s top dogs after the early blunder.
3:28 into the second period, Ville Pokka tied the game for Finland, beating Ivan Fedotov with a long-range shot that found its way through traffic, knotting the score at ones. Then, just 31 seconds into the third period the Finns capitalized again. This time it was a Marko Antilla shot that Hannes Bjorninen deflected perfectly past Fedotov, putting Finland on top.
“We were talking after the second period that we needed more shots and traffic in front of their goalie, and this guy (Bjorninen) was there, so it was a good goal for us,” Anttila said post-game.
That was all the Finns needed, as the team switched to a defence-first mentality, shutting down the Russian attack and taking home the gold by way of the 2-1 victory. Leaning on former NHL stars like Leo Komarov, Sami Vatanen, Mikko Lehtonen and Val Filppula, Team Finland captured its first gold medal in Olympic hockey and its first Olympic hockey medal since a bronze in 2014.
“It’s tough to find the words but we got what we came here for,” Vatanen said. “We battled hard and we got the first Olympic gold medal in Finnish ice hockey history. So it’s something special and nobody can ever take it away from us.”
Finland’s recent results in @IIHFHockey Men’s tournaments:
2014: WJC 🥇 WC 🥈Olympic 🥉
2015: U18 🥈
2016: U18 🥇WJC 🥇 WC 🥈
2017: U18 🥈
2018: U18 🥇
2019: WJC 🥇 WC 🥇
2021: WJC 🥉 WC 🥈
2022: Olympic 🥇
— Gord Miller (@GMillerTSN) February 20, 2022
The Finns had taken home silver on two occasions, first in 1998 in Nagano and second in Turin in 2006. Having started this year’s tournament with a strong three-goal comeback against Sweden, Finland also picked up wins over Latvia, Switzerland and Slovakia (twice) before finishing on top over the Russians.
In the bronze medal game, the favoured Swedes fell to Slovakia 4-0, which earned its first ever Olympic hockey medal, by way of the third-place bronze. Leading the tournament in points was Slovakian forward Juraj Slafkovsky, who potted seven goals in the games before being named tournament MVP. The 17-year-old is expected to be selected within the top-five of this summer’s NHL Draft.