Finland defeats Russian Olympic Committee in historic upset for men’s hockey gold

Finland's Marko Anttila, left, and Ville Pokka celebrate a goal by teammate Hannes Bjorninen.
Finland’s Marko Anttila, left, and Ville Pokka celebrate a goal by teammate Hannes Bjorninen during the third period of a 2-1 win over the Russian Olympic Committee in the Beijing Olympics on Sunday.
(Matt Slocum / Associated Press)

Finland ended the Olympic hockey tournament with a historic upset, as its men’s team won gold for the first time on the strength of a fiercely contested 2-1 victory over the Russian Olympic Committee on Sunday at National Indoor Stadium.

Hannes Bjorninen’s tip of a shot by Marko Anttila 31 seconds into the third period proved the difference as the Finns outplayed the favored Russians, who were able to build a roster around players in their domestic Kontinental Hockey League after the NHL decided not to allow its players to represent their homelands here. Finland, considered a hockey power for the last three decades, had won Olympic silver medals in 1988 and 2006 and won bronze medals in 1994, 1998, 2010 and 2014.

Four years ago at Pyeongchang the Russian team — then known as Olympic Athletes from Russia — prevailed over Germany in the gold medal game. Coached in Beijing by former NHL standouts Alexei Zhamnov and Sergei Fedorov, the renamed Russian team was favored to repeat, but Finland was the better team all-around. Finland goaltender Harri Sateri made 29 saves on Sunday against a formidable Russian offense.


Finland celebrates after defeating the Russian Olympic Committee in the gold-medal game.
(Petr David Josek / Associated Press)

The Finns’ victory in the final competition of the Beijing Games ended a successful hockey tournament for its teams. The women’s hockey team won a bronze medal, behind Canada and the United States.

Slovakia, coached by former NHL player and coach Craig Ramsay, won the bronze medal on Saturday with a 4-0 victory over Sweden.

The ROC scored first on Sunday, during a first-period power play. Mikhail Grigorenko, who played in the NHL for Buffalo, Colorado and Columbus, found the far corner on a shot from the right circle at 7:17. The assists went to Nikita Nesterov, formerly of Tampa Bay, Montreal and Calgary, and Nikita Gusev, who played for New Jersey and Florida in the NHL.

Mikaela Shiffrin and her teammates fall to Norway in the bronze medal match, but she calls it her “favorite memory” of the Beijing Olympics.

Finland pulled even at 3:28 of the second period on a long shot by Ville Pokka. ROC goalie Ivan Fedotov appeared to be screened on the play. The Finns surged ahead 31 seconds into the third period, when Bjorninen tipped home a shot by Anttila.

When the final buzzer sounded the Finns mobbed Sateri, a onetime San Jose Sharks draft pick who played nine NHL games for Florida in the 2017-18 season, and celebrated while awaiting the medal ceremony.