LILLEHAMMER – Russia defeated Finland 6-2 in the Youth Olympic bronze medal game, erasing an early Finnish lead then scoring four unanswered goals to win the bronze.
“It feels great, it was a tough game and we won the bronze medals,” said Kirill Nizhnikov. “We were a bit sad yesterday when the USA beat us but today we became one piece.”
Finland put the Russians off balance at the start of the game, scoring 30 seconds in as Rasmus Kupari picked up his first goal of the tournament.
But Russia struck back on the power play with 6:32 to go in the frame, a one-timer slapshot from the point by defenceman Danil Zhuravlyov beating Finnish goalie Justus Annunen glove side.
Amir Miftakhov, Russia’s star goaltender, managed to keep the Finns at bay with a couple of great stops, including a highlight-reel falling glove save to rob a Finnish forward late in the period.
Russia rewarded Miftakhov’s efforts by going ahead 2-1 a minute into the second. A neutral zone turnover by the Finns sent Kirill Nizhnikov off on a breakaway, beating Annunen with a backhand deke through the five-hole.
On the power play Finland tied the game back up, with a great passing play from Tobias Akerman serving up a backhander on the rush to Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who finished off Miftakhov with a low shot to knot things up 2-2.
But Russia replied with 1:15 left in the second, a scoring effort by Bogdan Zhilyakov was stopped but Yegor Sokolov was there on the rebound to score what would become the game-winning goal.
“It was nice to win the game and to win the bronze medal. It was very good. The team was focused to win the game because yesterday we were not so successful so we focused only on the win,” Sokolov said.
“In was a great organization here in Lillehammer and I want to thank everybody involved in organizing the Games.”
After the marker from Sokolov, Grigori Denisenko added an insurance goal with 17 seconds left on the clock for the 4-2 lead.
Early in the third period, a costly turnover by Uula Ruikka in his own zone pushed Finland into a deeper hole, as Alexander Khovanov intercepted Ruikka’s outlet pass and went for the Finnish net. Justus Annunen made the save on Khovanov initially, but Vladislav Koktov was there to clean up the rebound and give the Russians a commanding 5-2 lead.
The Russians added another with a goal from Khovanov with 2:39 left to seal the game, and joined Miftakhov in celebration. In two Winter Youth Olympics Games, the Russians have won a silver medal and now have a bronze medal to add to the collection.
“We were ready to fight for the medals for our parents, our friends and all who were supporting us. It was the last game of the Youth Olympic Games, so it was important for us,” said team captain Alexander Khovanov.
“Today the team worked as a whole piece, we were unstoppable, the goalie played well and everybody helped for the success.”