The game itself was very tight and both teams had their opportunities to score the needed goals. However, the Finns found the way to create the needed chances and were efficient enough to put up the score they needed. Harri Säteri got a shutout in 2–0 victory.
"It wasn't an easy time then and I had a lot of times to think all kind of thoughts. But this was one of them, to play in an Olympic final. Now it's possible. Everybody has been a bit scared of those tests and it's been nervous, but I'm proud of the guys and how they've handled all the pressure. It wasn't the prettiest game today but we won it.", said the experienced forward Marko Anttila after the game.
Finland started the game better than their opponents and the Finns were able to push the game near the Slovak net guarded by Patrik Rybar. Sakari Manninen scored the first goal of the game, which gave the Lions a lead quite early on.
"We get a shot from the blue line, guys in front of the net, little tips and then there is a rebound and then there's always a dangerous chance to score.", the goal scorer mentioned.
Through the first period Slovakia were able to get to the net and give Säteri some tough times. Especially their first line and the young talent Juraj Slafkovsky showed some real character. Despite the hard effort, neither of the teams were able to capitalize on their chances further in the period.
In the second period Slovakia took a couple of penalties giving Finland an opportunity to increase their lead, but Rybar at the net took care of the few shots that came towards him. Finland’s offensive game wasn’t at its best shape.
Slovakia started to take over as the period went by. Finland just stubbornly kept up with their game plan of tight defence and getting the puck away of the dangerous zone. Slovakia got it a few times very close to the goal line, but Säteri was in his best form even though the same couldn’t have been said from the rest of the team.
"It's just the way how you can win something. You have to battle hard and defend well. There aren't that many scoring chances overall in a game. That's our foundation.", Anttila thought.
Jukka Jalonen and his coaching staff seemed to count on the same tactical playbook that lead Finland to the World Championship final in Riga last year.
As the result was on the line in the third period, Slovakia put on even more effort in the offensive end of the rink. Guys like Petteri Lindbohm played clearly their best game of the tournament in the spot, when a solid defensive performance was mostly needed.
Slovakia pulled Rybar off the net in the last minutes as the experienced head coach Craig Ramsay tried to give the team one last boost towards the end. The gamble did strike back on the Slovakian team and Harri Pesonen capitalized an empty-netter.
Finland secured their second spot in the Olympic final in the nations history by a solid defensive effort, even though the good performance given by the underdog Slovakia left a stain of uncertainty hanging upon team Finland.
"We know that we have really good defence, that is our strength. We are ready on that and we know we can defend well. But we need to play with the puck more in the offence, create penalties and get the opponents a little bit tired.", Manninen said after the semi-final.
Finland will face either Sweden or the team of the Russian Olympic Committee in the final on Sunday morning. If the Lions are able to keep playing such tight defense and allowing only a low amount of goals, if any, the historical gold medal should be up for grabs.
"It feels amazing. You can think about these things before the tournament or even during the tournament. Now it's possible. We have to play a better game than we did today to win the gold medal. We are ready for that.", Anttila concluded.
"It is going to be a very good team whoever we play. I don't know who's coming. Let's see that later. If it's Sweden there is a bit of revenge. We will just have to play our best game so far.", he added.
Also Manninen was happy about the opportunity to bring home the first Olympic gold medal.
"It's huge, of course. Going to an Olympic final is like a dream. You dream of those kind of moments, but at the same time (I try to) focus on the right things, not think about it too much and prepare for the next game.", the centerman thought.
Picture © Xavier Laine / Getty Sport / GettyImages.ru