Finland opened up their journey for their first ever Olympic Gold Medal in dominating fashion in Vancouver, defeating Belarus 5-1 to open the Preliminary Round and retain the International Hockey Lineal Championship.
The Leijonat jumped out to an early lead on the quality of their power play, using two extra-man goals in the first twenty minutes to take a 2-0 lead into intermission. Olli Jokinen opened the scoring just over three minutes into the game on a one-timer ripped past Belarusian goalie Vitali Koval, left alone to receive a beautiful feed from Saku Koivu. The power play improved to 2-for-2 fourteen minutes later, when Niklas Hagman pounced on a loose puck following a broken Mikko Koivu-Joni Pitkänen passing play, walking in unchallenged and lifting a back hander over Koval for the 2-0 advantage.
The Bisons were quick to strike back early in the second, with a behind-the-net feed from Sergei Demagin finding Montréal Canadien Sergei Kostitsyn parked in front of Finnish keeper Miikka Kiprusoff, beating him five hole to cut the lead to 2-1. But Hagman would regain the two goal lead towards the end of the second, deking beautifully through Alexander Makritski’s legs and beating Koval on a backhander off the side boards, to take a 3-1 lead into the second intermission. While the Belarusians were only down by two, after 40 the shots were an astounding 28-4 in favour of the Leijonat.
And the pressure from the Finns did not stop there, as Valtteri Filppula struck for Finland’s fourth goal just 23 seconds into the third period, banging in a Mikko Koivu point shot that got stuck in Koval’s pads right in front of the goal. And while Belarus did manage to muster eight shots in this frame, their offense was unable to click past Finland’s strong defence and solid play from Kiprusoff, with Jarkko Ruutu putting the final exclamation point on the game with a Lasse Kukkonen redirect past Koval into a wide open net for the final 5-1 score with just over seven minutes left in regulation.
With the win, Finland retains the International Hockey Lineal Championship it brought to Vancouver, after winning it from Russia at the Channel One Cup in December. This is the first meeting between the Finns (in their 39th IHLC reign) and Belarus ever with the IHLC in contention. Finland next faces Germany in Group C action with the IHLC on the line.
02:41 – PEN – Makritski, hooking
03:24 – PP GOAL – Jokinen (S. Koivu, Selänne)
15:55 – PEN – Ryadinski, hooking
17:50 – PP GOAL – Hagman (M. Koivu, Pitkanen)
20:21 – GOAL – Kostitsyn (Demagin)
28:34 – PEN – Kukkonen, holding
32:34 – PEN – team, too many players
34:01 – PEN – Salo, hooking
36:52 – GOAL – Hagman (M. Koivu)
40:23 – GOAL – Filppula (M. Koivu)
41:13 – PEN – Karev, tripping
46:06 – PEN – Stasenko, slashing
50:11 – PEN – Makritski, tripping
52:59 – GOAL – J. Ruutu (Kukkonen, Kapanen)
W: Kiprusoff (11-12)
L: Koval (40-45)
SHOTS ON GOAL
17+11+17 = 45
2+2+8 = 12
Goaltenders: Niklas Bäckström, Miikka Kiprusoff. Defence: Lasse Kukkonen, Sami Lepistö, Toni Lydman, Janne Niskala, Joni Pitkänen, Sami Salo, Kimmo Timonen (A). Forwards: Valtteri Filppula, Niklas Hagman, Jarkko Immonen, Olli Jokinen, Niko Kapanen, Mikko Koivu, Saku Koivu (C), Jere Lehtinen, Antti Miettinen, Ville Peltonen, Jarkko Ruutu, Tuomo Ruutu, Teemu Selänne (A).
Goaltenders: Vitali Koval, Andrei Mezin. Defence: Vladimir Denisov, Andrei Karev, Sergei Kolosov, Viktor Kostyuchenok, Alexander Makritski, Alexander Ryadinski, Ruslan Salei (C), Nikolai Stasenko. Forwards: Oleg Antonenko (A), Sergei Demagin, Alexei Kalyuzhny, Konstantin Koltsov (A), Sergei Kostitsyn, Alexander Kulakov, Dmitri Meleshko, Andrei Mikhalyov, Andrei Stas, Alexei Ugarov, Sergei Zadeleneov, Konstantin Zakharov.