For the first time in Olympic history, Finland is taking home a hockey gold medal. The Finnish men took down the ROC by a score of 2-1 early Sunday morning, powered by the strong play of goaltender Harri Sateri and some stingy play in the defensive zone.
The Finns appeared in the men's gold medal game twice in Olympic history prior to the tilt against the ROC, but lost in both appearances. Sunday morning, though, they finally captured the elusive title.
"It is hard to put in words what this means," said Finland captain Valtteri Filppula.
"It's big. Hockey is a big thing in Finland. This is for all of us for sure. We have come close a couple of times and it is finally nice to get the first one."
The first period of the gold medal game was mostly dull, though the Russian athletes did manage to open the scoring at the contest's 7:17 mark when forward Mikhail Grigorenko beat Sateri with a wrister through traffic on the power play. The ROC took its 1-0 lead into the first intermission, but it took the Finns just 3:28 into the middle stanza to tie the game up at one goal apiece. Ville Pokka fired what appeared to be a harmless wrister toward the ROC net, but it redirected on its way to the goal and made its way past Russian netminder Ivan Fedotov.
In the third period, the Finns struck quickly once again. Just 29 seconds into the final frame, Hannes Bjorninen fired a wrister through traffic to break the 1-1 tie and log the eventual game-winner. It was Bjorninen's first goal of the tournament, and it came at the perfect time.
The Russian athletes were the odds-on favorites to take home the gold in Beijing. With a roster comprised mainly of stars from the KHL — widely regarded as the top hockey league in the world behind the NHL — it wouldn't have been a shock if they won the title. But the Finns were outstanding throughout the tournament. They outscored their opponents 22-8 and, most importantly, won all six of their games in Beijing.
It's been a long time coming, but the Finns are on top of the Olympic hockey world.