Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Ice hockey: Finland beat Slovakia to reach gold medal final

Ice hockey: Finland beat Slovakia to reach gold medal final
February 18, 2022 Reuters

BEIJING (Reuters) – Finland claimed a 2-0 win over Slovakia on Friday and a spot in the men's ice hockey final at the Beijing Games helped by Sakari Manninen's first period goal and Harri Sateri's shutout netminding.

Finland now await the winners of the second semi-final later on Friday between defending gold medallists the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) and Sweden.

The Finns had easily handled Slovakia in their tournament opener, easing to a 6-2 win, but this time faced much more determined opponents battling for a place in Sunday's gold medal game.

Finland scored the only goal of an opening period that produced few scoring chances.

But Manninen made one of Finland's seven shots count by pouncing on a rebound and lifting it over sprawling netminder Patrik Rybar for a 1-0 lead.

The rest of the game featured a goaltending duel between Rybar and Sateri, who made 28 saves to earn the shutout, with Harri Pesonen finding the net to round off the win for Finland.

The game's only other goal came with 39 seconds remaining with Pesonen scoring into an empty net after Slovakia pulled their netminder for an extra-attacker in a bid to draw level.

Finland has regularly featured on the Olympic podium, returning home with a medal from three of the last four Winter Games but has yet to reach the top step.

"I knew coming into the Olympics that we’re going to have a really good team, solid team, veteran team, a lot of experienced guys," said Pesonen. "But you know, every tournament is kind of a mystery how it goes and how it ends but I’m definitely happy and what a great opportunity for us to play for the brightest medal."

Slovakia's hunt for a first Olympic men's ice hockey medal continues when they play for the bronze.

As one half of the former Czechoslovakia, Slovakia made several appearances on the Olympic podium and as an independent nation reached the semi-finals at the 2010 Vancouver Games but failed to medal, losing to Finland in the bronze match.

"It’s a big thing that we made it to semi-finals but now we still have (an) unfinished job in here and we need to do our best tomorrow that we can bring the medal home," said Slovakia's 17-year-old scoring sensation Juraj Slafkovsky, who is tied for the Games lead in goals with five.