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The Olympic tournament had come to the moment in which only two teams were left to compete. Finland and the team ROC faced each other in the final game on Sunday morning. The Finnish Lions made their way through to the climax by winning Slovakia in the semi-final. Slovakia later defeated Sweden in the bronze medal game.

ROC got to the final by a close margin as they got the positive result out of the semi-final against Sweden only in the shootout series. There Arseni Gritsyuk scored the deciding goal.

In the Olympic final game the ROC scored the first goal, but ever since Finland were on top of the game and especially the fourth line played a great final. Finland won their first ever Olympic gold by score 2–1.

”We found a way to win, we found a way to win. It was a great team effort. This is so rewarding.”, said Miro Aaltonen right after the game had ended.

Special teams made the difference early on

Finland started the game with a bit better effort than ROC. The first live with the Salavat Yulaev forwards brought the pressure to the offensive zone and made Ivan Fedotov take a couple of saves right in the beginning.

Russians couldn’t get the touch to the game as the Finnish Lions didn’t give them any extra space to make plays. Finnish forwards forechecked aggresssively and snatched the puck away from their opponents early on before the possession got even near the Finnish zone. ROC got the first power play of the game, when Hannes Björninen’s stick raised too high, to the face of Yegor Yakovlev. Only a couple of seconds later Mikhail Grigorenko shot the first goal beind Harri Säteri.

Also Finland got their chance on power play in the first period. Despite the strong effort, Fedotov took the needed catches and kept the ROC in the lead. On the last minute of the period Sami Vatanen gave an unfortunate pass, which almost caused ROC to get their second goal. However, it didn’t happen.

Finland stepped on the gas

The battle contiuned in the second period and now also the ROC seemed to be more prepared for the Finns to give them pressure. The structured formation on the neutral zone gave the Russians some breathing space. Just when the ROC were defending tightly, it was Finland’s job to just get the puck to the net.

Finland scored the tying goal from the situation in which scoring didn’t seem that probable. Avangard defenceman Ville Pokka shot from the blue line and Fedotov couldn’t make the catch. Kirill Semyonov forced ROC to play short-handed half-way through the second period. This time nothing out of the ordinary happened.

“We talked about how we need to get shots through and guys in front of the net,” Pokka said. “I don’t score too many goals but I’m super pumped that I scored in an Olympic final.”

Neither team got any highly potential scoring chances in the second half of the second period, but still Finland remained on top of the event on the ice. The ROC tried to shatter the Finnish lines with long opening passes, but many of those fell through.

The fourth line stepped up

The third period started with the best possible way for the Finns and the wordst possible for the ROC. Fedotov stumbled at his net and Finland forechecked the puck away. Marko Anttila delivered the puck towards the goal and Hannes Björninen steered the puck in – giving Finland the lead early in the period. The fourth line took control of the game and played a couple of strong shifts in the offensive end.

“It’s a really big thing for us. This was a team effort,” Bjorninen said. “We know how to play, how we want to play, and we just work together and fun out there. “We just believe in each other and work hard.”

The Russians didn’t give up even after falling behind. Finland had to get their defence tight, when the ROC got the pressure near Säteri’s net. However, the zone near the Finnish goaltender remained clear and the shots were taken from a distance.

The ROC picked up their physical game, but on the other hand some of their players seemed to start pushing individually through the ice, giving Finland the opportunity to get enough men between the puck and Säteri’s work post. The physical effort got ROC to receive a penalty. Power play units rushed near Fedotov, but couldn’t score the third for the Finns. Juuso Hietanen hit the post with a wrister.

The Russians got their momentum on for the last minutes of the third period, but Finland stayed united and confident with the possession. Björninen’s unit was in the big role even, when the game was on the line. The game clock ran out of time and the Finnish party started.

"It is amazing. It is such an honour to be part of this group, to be part of this team. We deserved this. It is a great honour and it feels amazing. We were playing well. We kept working, we actually had some scoring chances, but a one-goal lead is always the hardest. All you need is a bad bounce not to go your way." said Jokerit defenceman Petteri Lindbohm.

Finland made history

Even though the ROC scored the first goal of the game, Finland were sure that their game plan and strategy would carry them through the game.

The Lions scored the needed goals and especially played united defensive game, which brought them the historical first Olympic gold after getting six other medals in the earlier Olympic tournaments.

All-Star team

Five out of six players on the 2022 Men’s Olympic All-Star team play in the KHL. The honors went to Slovakia’s goalie Patrik Rybar (Dinamo Minsk), defensemen Mikko Lehtonen (SKA and Finland) and Yegor Yakovlev (Metallurg and ROC), plus forwards Sakari Manninen (Jokerit and Finland), Lucas Wallmark (CSKA and Sweden) and Juraj Slafkovsky (Slovakia).

Slafkovsky, 17, finished the tournament as leading goalscorer with seven. The TPS Turku prospect was also nominated as MVP in the media poll in Beijing.

Picture credits © Bruce Bennett / Getty Sport /

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