Team Finland made history Saturday night in Beijing when they defeated the Russian Olympic Committee 2-1 to win the first gold medal in team history.
It was a victory nearly 100 years in the making as Finland joined the IIHF in 1928, played in their first World Championship in 1939 in Switzerland and made their Olympic debut in 1952.
Finland would win their first silver medal at the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary when the tournament was played as a round-robin format, they also defeated Russia for the medal in that game when they were still known as the Soviet Union.
Finland has also won four bronze medals at the Olympics in 1994, 1998, 2010, and 2014.
While NHL players didn’t go to the Olympics for the second consecutive time, Finland had several former NHL players on their squad including Valtteri Filppula, Leo Komarov, and Sami Vatanen. You can view the full roster here:
They were ranked third by the IIHF going into this year’s Olympics.
Going into the gold medal game, Finland hadn’t allowed an even-strength goal since the opening game of the tournament and goaltender Harri Sateri had only allowed four goals on 115 shots faced in four starts.
Another player who had an impressive performance for Team Finland was forward Sakari Manninen, who had four goals and three assists in five games played going into last night’s gold medal match.
Team ROC started the scoring with a power-play goal by Mikhail Grigorenko, who played in the NHL for the Buffalo Sabres, Colorado Avalanche, and Columbus Blue Jackets at 7:17 of the first period, the assists on the goal also went to former NHL players in Nikita Nesterov, who last played for the Calgary Flames and Nikita Gusev, formerly of the New Jersey Devils and Florida Panthers.
Team Finland would tie the game with a little over sixteen minutes remaining in the second period on a long shot by Ville Pokka.
Team Finland would hang onto that lead, even when Team ROC emptied their net late in the third period in an attempt to tie the game.
At the final buzzer, Anttila and his teammates mobbed their goaltender in celebration, knocking the net off its moorings.
Team Finland almost made it to the gold medal game as they had to climb back from a three-goal deficit in the final game before the quarterfinals against Team Sweden.
While Finland came into the third period trailing 3-0, they converted on back-to-back power-play chances to cut the lead to 3-2 before finding a gap under the leg of Swedish goaltender Magnus Hellberg to tie the game at three goals apiece.
Harri Pesonen would then score in overtime to advance Finland to the semifinals.
Another thing that impacted Finland in their matchup was the ejection of former Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks forward Markus Granlund in the second period for an elbow to the head of a Swedish defenseman.
After their narrow victory over Sweden, Team Finland would go on to defeat Switzerland in the quarterfinals and Slovakia in the semifinals to advance to Saturday’s gold medal game where they made history.
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