Shootout lifts Finns to gold

YOG: Kahkonen shuts door on Russians after first period


Finland captured the first ever gold medal in men's ice hockey at the 2012 Youth Olympic Winter Games. Photo: Christopher Kelemen / GEPA pictures

Russia - Finland 1 - 2 (1 - 0, 0 - 0, 0 - 1, 0 - 0, 0- 1) Game Sheet

INNSBRUCK – Just when it seemed that Russia would take the Youth Olympic hockey gold before their big show in Sochi 2014, Finland scored the tying goal with just over a minute left in the third period, winning in the shootout to steal the gold medal in Innsbruck. The hero of the game for Finland was goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen. The 15-year-old made 26 of 27 saves in regulation and stopped both of Russia’s shooters in the shootout to seal the win for his team. “Amazing performance, he played really good,” said forward Kasperi Kapanen. “Of course it came down to the one game where you have to be at your best, and he was tonight.” Going into the final period down 1-0, Finland could not solve Russian goaltender Sergey Korobov. The goaltender made eight saves in the frame, but did not get any support from his teammates, who couldn’t do enough to harass Kahkonen in the final two periods. But with 1:02 remaining in the period, Waltteri Hopponen redirected a pass in front of the net past Russian goaltender Sergey Korobov, tying the game and sending the Finland fans into a delirium. The overtime period did not decide a winner, and the teams prepared for the second shootout of the Youth Olympics, with gold on the line. The first player to shoot was Honkanen, who scored, by pulling back and firing it under Korobov’s glove, the same shot that he converted in a penalty shot in the preliminary round game against Russia and in the penalty shootout against Canada. Then Maxim Lazarev’s shot sailed past the net, and after Kaponen buried his chance, again with a shot identical to Honkanen’s, Kahkonen stoned Russian captain Ivan Nikolishin, prompting his team to jump the bench and mob their goaltender. “Russia is a very skilled team, and they were going to come in with a lot of pressure,” said Kahkonen. “I knew it was going to be a tough game, and it was.” An early high-stick call on Russia led to a huge chance for Finland to go up by a goal in the opening period, but Joel Kirivanta missed wide on an open net. The Russians then took control, outshooting Finland 16-6. At 8:35, Ilia Zinovev got the puck following a scramble in front of the Finnish net and shot it past Kahkonen for the first goal of the game. But the Finnish goaltender closed the door after that, while leaving the window open for his team to finally get the tying goal in the third. The game devolved into a penalty-filled second period, though neither team was able to capitalize on their power play. After Russia killed off a 5-3 at the outset of the period, Alex Levanen was called for a high stick, and on the same play Jonne Yliniemi drove Russian captain Ivan Nikolishin into the boards from behind, resulting in a game misconduct and a two-minute 5-on-3 for the Russians. But once again they could not convert, thanks to some superb defending from the Finns, in particular Antti Kauppinen, who blocked three point shots in a row at one point. Kauppinen’s series embodied the Finn’s gritty, determined style that served them so well in this tournament. “We played really good in this whole tournament, but I’m really proud of that 5-3 that we killed off,” said Kapanen. “We got a lot of momentum off of that and it helped turn the game around. [Kauppinen] was amazing right there and I was really proud of him.” Asked if he play to go to sleep wearing the gold medal tonight, Kapanen took it one step further. “Probably not taking it off for the next two months, at least,” he said with a grin.

Click here for a video with post-game comments. ADAM STEISS
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