Finland Wins First Olympic Gold Medal in Ice Hockey

Muneeb Chawla

· Ice Hockey

Hannes Bjorninen, who was in the penalty box when the ROC opened the scoring in the first period, scored the game-winning goal in the first minute of the third period on a deflection from a shot by forward Marko Anttila. The ROC recorded only three shots in the third period and was outshot 31-17 in the game.

Finland reached the finals with a 5-1 victory over Switzerland in the quarterfinals and 2-0 win over Slovakia in the semifinals. The ROC, meanwhile, defeated Denmark 3-1 in the quarterfinals and Sweden 2-1 in the semifinals. Slovakia beat Sweden 4-0 in the bronze medal game to win its first-ever Olympic medal in men's ice hockey. The United States and Canada were eliminated in the quarterfinals.

Prior to the last two Winter Olympics, Canada had won three of the last four Olympic men's ice hockey tournaments. It's worth noting, however, that National Hockey League (NHL) players were permitted to play in those tournaments. The NHL and NHL Players Association (NHLPA) couldn't come to an agreement to let players participate in the 2018 PyeongChang Games. Both parties initially agreed that players would participate in Beijing, but those plans were halted due to league-wide COVID-19 postponements.

"Unfortunately, given the profound disruption to the NHL's regular-season schedule caused by recent COVID-related events - 50 games already have been postponed through Dec. 23 - Olympic participation is no longer feasible," wrote NHL commissioner Gary Bettman in a December 22 press release.

Although the NHL didn't send players to Beijing, several former NHL players participated in the tournament. Finland's roster included ex-NHL players Valtteri Filppula, Markus Granlund, Leo Komarov, Sami Vatanen, and Mikko Lehtonen. Other former NHL players at Beijing included Eric Staal (Canada), David Krejci (Czech Republic), Artem Anisimov (ROC), Frans Nielsen (Denmark), and Markus Kruger (Sweden).

Juraj Slafkovsky (Slovakia), a projected top-five pick in the 2022 NHL Draft, finished first among all players with seven goals. The 17-year-old forward was also named tournament MVP. Slafkovsky also tied Finnish forwards Sakari Manninen and Teemu Hartikainen as well as Canadian forward Adam Tambellini for the tournament lead in total points. Slovakian goaltender Patrik Rybar led all players at his position with an impressive 0.86 goals-against average, allowing only five goals through six games.

Rybar, Slafkovsky, and Mannien were all named to the tournament all-star team along with defenseman Egor Yakovlev (ROC) and forward Lucas Wallmark (Sweden).

 

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