Ryan Quigley

Finland takes down ROC, wins first-ever Olympic men’s hockey gold

finland olympic gold
Nikolay Muratkin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

For the first time in Olympic history, Finland is taking home a hockey gold medal. The Finnish men took down the ROC by a score of 2-1 early Sunday morning, powered by the strong play of goaltender Harri Sateri and some stingy play in the defensive zone.

The Finns appeared in the men’s gold medal game twice in Olympic history prior to the tilt against the ROC, but lost in both appearances. Sunday morning, though, they finally captured the elusive title.

“It is hard to put in words what this means,” said Finland captain Valtteri Filppula.

“It’s big. Hockey is a big thing in Finland. This is for all of us for sure. We have come close a couple of times and it is finally nice to get the first one.”

The first period of the gold medal game was mostly dull, though the Russian athletes did manage to open the scoring at the contest’s 7:17 mark when forward Mikhail Grigorenko beat Sateri with a wrister through traffic on the power play. The ROC took its 1-0 lead into the first intermission, but it took the Finns just 3:28 into the middle stanza to tie the game up at one goal apiece. Ville Pokka fired what appeared to be a harmless wrister toward the ROC net, but it redirected on its way to the goal and made its way past Russian netminder Ivan Fedotov.

In the third period, the Finns struck quickly once again. Just 29 seconds into the final frame, Hannes Bjorninen fired a wrister through traffic to break the 1-1 tie and log the eventual game-winner. It was Bjorninen’s first goal of the tournament, and it came at the perfect time.

The Russian athletes were the odds-on favorites to take home the gold in Beijing. With a roster comprised mainly of stars from the KHL — widely regarded as the top hockey league in the world behind the NHL — it wouldn’t have been a shock if they won the title. But the Finns were outstanding throughout the tournament. They outscored their opponents 22-8 and, most importantly, won all six of their games in Beijing.

It’s been a long time coming, but the Finns are on top of the Olympic hockey world.

Click here to view all the stats from Finland’s win over the ROC, and click here to watch the full event replay from start to finish.

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    Canada takes down U.S., reclaims women’s Olympic hockey gold

    canada u.s. women's
    ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP via Getty Image

    Just about every true hockey fan predicted the United States and Canada would meet in the women’s hockey gold medal game again at the 2022 Winter Olympics. As fate would have it, that’s exactly what happened. The two fierce rivals faced off for the title for the sixth time in the last seven Olympics late Wednesday night, and after falling to the U.S. in the gold medal game in PyeongChang, the Canadians reclaimed the gold this time around with a 3-2 victory against the Americans.

    Canada captain Marie-Philip Poulin was a force throughout the final. She netted two goals and added an assist in the tilt, giving her 17 points through seven contests at the Winter Games. Poulin is the top women’s hockey player in the world, and she played like it against the Americans.

    With her pair of goals, Poulin became the first player in Olympic history, male or female, to score in four gold medal games.

    “It was a group effort,” she said after the game. “It was line after line, put pressure (on), and we put it in when it was the right time.”

    The Canadians came out fast and furious to start the tilt. Natalie Spooner appeared to net the game’s first goal early in the opening frame, but the marker was taken off the board after a review deemed the goal was offside. However, Sarah Nurse broke the ice just seconds after the disallowed goal with a redirection of a Claire Thompson point shot off the draw. With her tally, Nurse set the all-time record for points in a single Olympic tournament with 18 (five goals, 13 assists).

    “That was the longest game of hockey I’ve ever played,” said Nurse, who is now the first Black woman to win an Olympic gold medal in hockey. “Waking up this morning, we knew that we were gonna finish this game with a gold medal. We just stuck to our plan, stuck to our process.”

    “This is a dream come true.”

    Poulin doubled her squad’s lead with her first marker not long after Nurse opened the scoring, capitalizing on a U.S. defensive-zone turnover and beating American goaltender Alex Cavallini, who appeared to have lost track of the puck. She later netted her second goal of the game in the middle period after burying a juicy rebound off the pad of Cavallini, putting the U.S. in a 3-0 hole.

    The Americans finally scored their first goal of the game late in the second period when Hilary Knight (who else?) slid a rebound past Canadian netminder Ann-Renee Desbiens on a shorthanded 2-on-1 rush. Knight’s tally briefly swung momentum in the U.S.’s favor, but the temporary shot of adrenaline wasn’t enough to narrow the gap.

    Amanda Kessel got the U.S. within one goal of Canada with a garbage-time tally on a 6-on-4 advantage in the game’s waning seconds, but at that point it was too little too late. The Canadians drained the last 12 seconds of the game with ease, and the celebration soon followed.

    Despite Kessel’s marker on the advantage, the U.S. power play was downright dreadful in the title game and, frankly, throughout the entire tournament. The Americans managed just seven power-play tallies on 29 opportunities at the Games — an abysmal output with the amount of talent on the U.S. roster. The loss of Brianna Decker in the tournament opener certainly didn’t do the power play any favors.

    The U.S. came up short in more areas than just the power play, though. They also missed several quality scoring chances that could have greatly influenced the contest’s outcome. Just after the game’s two-minute mark, Hannah Brandt missed a wide-open net that would have given the U.S. an early lead. Early in the third period, Alex Carpenter hit the post with Desbiens in complete disarray as chaos erupted all around her.

    The Americans ended up outshooting Canada 40-21 in the contest, but without converting on their scoring opportunities, the shot differential was inconsequential.

    “I don’t think we played up to our potential so that’s sort of the bittersweet part of it,” said Knight. “We’re a great team, but at the end of the day the score didn’t show that. Hopefully you take this and you stay hungry and for some of the younger kids in that room, come back with a vengeance or a chip on their shoulder to do better and to do more.”

    “I love this group entirely and it’s always a special moment when you can represent your country on a world stage.”

    With the victory, the Canadians now have five of the seven gold medals awarded for women’s hockey at the Olympics.

    Canada is back on top of the women’s hockey world, and the U.S. is going back to the drawing board as veterans Knight, Decker and Kendall Coyne Schofield consider their Olympic futures.

    For Knight, who’s 32, it’s a bit too early to start thinking about 2026.

    “I don’t know,” she said when asked if she’ll be back for Milano Cortina. “The level of dedication that you have to have in this program and this team is — every single decision you make, it’s a lot. It’s not something I can commit to right now.”

    “I like to win, so we’ll see.”

    Click here to view all the stats from Canada’s win over the United States, and click here to watch the full event replay from start to finish.

    Slovakia shocks U.S. men in shootout to advance to Olympic semifinal

    u.s. slovakia olympics
    ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP via Getty Image

    The United States men’s hockey team finished group play with a perfect 3-0 record, but the run of perfection came to a screeching halt early Wednesday morning. Slovakia, perhaps the most captivating story of the men’s tournament thus far, took down the U.S. by a score of 3-2 in the shootout to advance to the men’s semifinals at the 2022 Winter Olympics.

    Slovakia trailed the Americans 2-1 in the final minute of the game, but with just 43.7 seconds remaining in regulation, Slovak forward Marek Hrivik scored with his team’s net empty to tie the game and ultimately force overtime.

    Despite both the U.S. and Slovakia managing to generate numerous quality scoring chances, neither team was able to score in the highly-eventful 10-minute OT period. Goals were just as hard to come by in the shootout, but when a puck finally did hit the back of the net, it came off the stick of Slovakia’s Peter Cehlarik.

    “You watch the goalie from previous games and I called his move in the warm-up. I tried it in the warm-up and I believed in it,” said Cehlarik.

    “Our goalie coach gave us pre-scouts and watched some clips on him, and I made (the) move.”

    Slovakia goaltender Patrik Rybar didn’t allow a single goal in the shootout, stopping the Americans on all five of their attempts. Rybar finished the tilt with 33 saves on 35 U.S. shots.

    Strangely, Matty Beniers, who was outstanding for the Americans throughout overtime, was never given an opportunity in the shootout.

    The U.S. got off to a solid start against the Slovaks, outshooting them 5-0 in the early portion of the opening stanza. But not long after the period’s midway point, Slovakian sensation Juraj Slafkovsky netted his tournament-leading fifth goal to break the ice. The 17-year-old was left completely unguarded in the slot and fired a laser past U.S. goaltender Strauss Mann to give his squad the early advantage.

    Slafkovsky may be the youngest player competing in the men’s tournament, but he already appears to be a budding star. He is eligible to be selected in the upcoming 2022 NHL Entry Draft in July, and after his strong showing at the Olympics, it’s virtually a lock that he’ll have his name called very early.

    The Americans eventually responded with a goal of their own with just 45 seconds remaining in the first period. Nick Abruzzese potted his first marker of the tournament thanks to some gorgeous puck movement from Kenny Agostino, Steven Kampfer and Beniers on the rush. Better late in the period than never.

    Despite the clear momentum shift at the end of the game’s first 20 minutes, the middle period was far from ideal for the Americans. Slovakia outshot them 13-6 in the second frame and generated several quality scoring chances. Mann, however, was able to keep all of their opportunities out of the net. The Greenwich, Connecticut native was stellar all game long, stopping 34 of the 36 shots fired in his direction.

    While the Slovaks had the clear advantage in the shots department during the middle stanza, Sam Hentges managed to give the U.S. a 2-1 lead just before the game’s midway point for his first goal of the tournament.

    Unfortunately, Hentges’ tally ended up being the last goal the Americans would score at the 2022 Games. The U.S. had a golden opportunity to extend its lead in the third period with a 5-on-3 power play that lasted 1:22, but they failed to convert. In fact, the power play was completely ineffective all game, going scoreless in 6:38 of time on the advantage.

    “We’ve got to do a better job at that,” said Kampfer. “We could definitely have put our foot down on them but they killed it well and we didn’t capitalize when we needed to.

    “Hockey is a game of inches. They played well, they stuck to their identity and when it comes to a shootout there isn’t really that much you can do.”

    For the second consecutive Olympics, the U.S. men will be watching the semifinals from home.

    Slovakia was not considered a favorite to advance to the semifinals in the men’s tournament by any means, but with NHL players not taking part in the Olympics, the playing field was evened out significantly. Now, the Slovaks and their teenage wunderkind are suddenly the top story of the tournament.

    The Slovaks will play their semifinal game against the ROC Thursday night at 11:10 p.m. ET.

    U.S. women shut down Finland, advance to gold medal game vs. Canada

    u.s. women finland
    ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP via Getty Images

    Before the United States women’s hockey team won the gold medal in PyeongChang, they had to go through Finland in the semifinals to earn their title shot. The two nations met once again under the exact same circumstances Monday morning at the 2022 Winter Olympics, and just as they did in 2018, the Americans triumphed against the Finns, taking them down by a score of 4-1 to return to the gold medal game.

    The U.S. was heavily favored to defeat Finland and advance to the final, but the Finns played perhaps their best game of the tournament Monday morning, and it caused a whole lot of nervous moments for the Americans early on. The U.S. outshot Finland 12-6 in the first period, but was lucky to enter the first intermission scoreless.

    With under a minute remaining in the opening frame, U.S. goaltender Alex Cavallini robbed Michelle Karvinen with a pair of enormouspad saves on a 2-on-1 Finland rush. A goal at that stage of the period would have greatly shifted momentum in Finland’s favor, but Cavallini’s clutch stops gave her squad a massive boost to take with them into the locker room.

    Cavallini was the star of the game for the Americans. The Finns managed to generate a considerable amount of high-danger scoring chances throughout the game, but Cavallini sniffed out almost all of them. She finished the game stopping 25 of Finland’s 26 shots on net, and without her miraculous desperation pad saves in the opening period, the game could have ended with a much different result.

    Cavallini’s heroics clearly changed the tone of the game, because the Americans came out firing on all cylinders in the middle period. Not only did they outshoot the Finns 21-6 in the second stanza, but they finally broke the ice when defender Cayla Barnes netted her first goal of the tournament on the power play to give her squad the 1-0 lead.

    After not logging a single point in PyeongChang, Barnes, 23, has a goal and five assists for the Americans in this year’s tournament.

    Barnes’ goal was crucial, but the Americans’ second goal of the period was just as key. And to no one’s surprise, it came off the stick of Hilary Knight in the low slot. Knight has been the Americans’ top point producer throughout the tournament, and just as she did in PyeongChang, she’s continuing to make timely plays when the U.S. needs them most.

    “I just want to win. Every time I step on the ice I want to win. It doesn’t matter if it is a mini game or whatnot. Every time we are in the grocery store — non-COVID times — we are racing with a shopping cart in the canned food section,” said Knight after the game. “It’s just a competitor in all of us and you’ve just got to find a way to do it. It wasn’t our best hockey but we put ourselves in a good position to prepare for the next one.”

    The U.S. took the 2-0 lead into the second intermission, but it was a given that the Finns would enter the final frame desperate to turn the tide. And their desperation was palpable. But the Americans were just better in every facet to close out the tilt.

    With under five minutes remaining in the third period, Hayley Scamurra netted her first goal of the tournament to pad the U.S. lead. It was Barnes who fired the puck toward the Finland net from the point, and Scamurra got to the dirty area and redirected her clapper to give the Americans the 3-0 advantage.

    The Finns finally managed to solve Cavallini in the third period with the goalie pulled, but it was too little too late with only 26 seconds remaining on the clock. Abby Roque swiftly reclaimed the three-goal lead after the Finland tally with an empty-netter in the game’s dying seconds, sealing the win for the Americans and propelling them one step close to a successful title defense.

    Just as many expected before the women’s hockey tournament even began, the U.S. and Canada are indeed meeting once again in the gold medal game. They’ve faced off in the women’s hockey final in six of the last seven Olympics since 1998, when women’s hockey first became an official event at the Games. Since then, they’ve formed one of the best rivalries in all of sports — if not the best.

    “We are just so excited. This is what we have been playing for. It is us against Canada and it is what we love to do and why we are here. We are really excited,” said Scamurra.

    “I think it is the best rivalry in sports. You can feel it when you are watching it and when you are doing it, it is that much more. It is so much fun. I love it.”

    Puck drop for the women’s gold medal game between the U.S. and Canada is set for 11:10 p.m. ET on Wednesday, February 16. Finland and Switzerland will compete for the bronze medal that morning at 6:30 a.m. ET.

    Click here to view all the stats from the United States’ win over Finland, and click here to watch the full event replay from start to finish.

    U.S. men top Germany, earn bye to quarterfinals at 2022 Winter Olympics

    u.s. men slovakia
    Sarah Stier/Getty Images

    The United States played its final preliminary tilt of the men’s Olympic hockey tournament Sunday morning hoping to earn the No. 1 seed for the playoffs. It didn’t come easy, but the Americans picked up the big 3-2 win over a gutsy German team to stay unbeaten at the Games.

    While the U.S. ended up getting the win, it was the Germans who struck first after Patrick Hager netted a power-play marker just two minutes into the game. The Americans responded quickly, though. Just 2:26 after Hager’s ice-breaker, Steven Kampfer tied the game with a blast from the point for a power-play goal of his own.

    Both teams went into the first intermission tied at one goal apiece, but it didn’t take the U.S. long to break the tie in the middle period. At the frame’s 4:50 mark with chaos in front of the German net, Matt Knies picked up a loose puck in front and roofed it to give the Americans their first lead of the game.

    The Americans began the third period on a fresh two-minute power play. They couldn’t convert on it, but it only took them 47 seconds after the advantage expired to extend their lead. Following a German turnover in their own zone, Nathan Smith backhanded a loose puck through Danny aus den Birken‘s five-hole, giving the U.S. a 3-1 advantage. The Americans had their backs up against the wall late in the third period after Tom Kuhnhackl cut the U.S. lead in half, but thanks to some crucial blocked shots, they hung on to earn the win.

    Never a dull moment for U.S. hockey.

    After earning a shutout in his Olympic debut, goaltender Drew Commesso was solid in net for the Americans. He stopped 24 of 26 German shots to earn his second win of the tournament. The 19-year-old may be young, but he’s been a steady backstop thus far in his two starts.

    Penalties were one of the big stories of this game. There were eight total penalties assessed, and the U.S. penalty kill, despite giving up an early goal on the man advantage, did an outstanding job of keeping the Germany power play in check. The U.S. ended the tilt successfully killing three of Germany’s four power plays, and their strong short-handed play ended up playing a crucial role in the victory.

    With the win, the Americans successfully clinched the No. 1 seed for Group A heading into the playoffs and earned a bye in the elimination round to advance directly to the quarterfinals. It’s still unclear who the U.S. will take on in their first playoff game.

    Click here to view all the stats from the U.S.’s win over Germany, and click here to watch the full event replay from start to finish.