It’s one of those goals you always dream of, I guess dreams come true
After having been at the Gold Medal Game in Toronto, where the host team was playing in the biggest game of the tournament, I had a very vague idea as to what I could expect in Helsinki. The crowd he is considered to be loud but significantly less rowdy compared to the Canadians last year. This could be a signifiers of the different cultures of the two countries.. Finns are known for being much more subdued and less outgoing compared to Canadians. In Canada, crowds at hockey games rely on loud cheers and waving signs to show support for their preferred team. In Finland, they clap folded up pieces of paper against either their hands or legs in unison to make noise. It’s actually really cool because they all just know to do it to the same beat so it literally all sounds like one person clapping. They also stay seated for the most part, only standing to cheer for a goal. At the Gold Medal Game last year, I got blisters on my feet because I wore uncomfortable shoes and stood the entire length of the game. It was well worth it. Tonight, I learned my lesson wearing comfortable shoes for the post-game scrum that seemed to take forever until I finally got the player that I wanted to talk to.
“[the fan support meant] so much. It wasn’t just today, it was throughout. Just seeing all those tweets and news articles about the whole Finnish nation being behind you is unbelievable feeling. [The Canadian fans] I heard them, they’re pretty loud. It’s nice to have some other people rooting for us too” – Kasperi Kapanen on the fan support in Helsinki
Host team, Finland, played one of their biggest rivals in international hockey, Russia, in the Gold Medal Game and there was a buzz throughout the entire arena that there was something special about this Finnish team. They could score, they could defend, and, as of the elimination round, they also had very strong goaltending. For majority of the preliminary round, Finland rode the success of their “kid” line of Puljujarvi, Aho and Laine to get them into the elimination games. From there, it seemed like the older, more experienced players started to contribute and take a lot of the pressure off the draft eligible guys. Rantanen, a first year professional player in the Avalanche system and captain of the Finns, was next to non-existent for the beginning of the tournament. Many were questioning his leadership within the team and exactly what he could bring to a team trying to win their 2nd gold medal in 3 years. He wasn’t the only returning player that failed to make much of a mark on the team to start the tournament. In the opening games, Kasperi Kapanen hadn’t done a whole lot. He had a few points but really wasn’t contributing the way he was expected to. Since the medal round began, both Kapanen and Rantanen have been huge pieces to getting Finland to the final game of the tournament.
“Not a lot of words how to describe the feeling. Very happy. Happy for the team. Happy for the whole Finland, we had absolutely unbelievable crowd there and everybody was watching at home on tv so, unbelievable feeling.” – Mikko Rantenan when asked how it felt to be a World Junior Champion.
To start the game, it seemed like Russia had come out as a completely different team. They were able to take their game to a whole other level. It’s almost like they flipped a switch after their semi-final game against the USA that made them suddenly look like they have an interest in winning this game. They were finally skating, going into the corners to fish out pucks and blocking shots that could have definitely been solid scoring opportunities. The Finns seemed to take a page out of the Canadians hand book by taking too many penalties, which lead to a Russian goal by their captain, Vladislav Kamenev. When Finland did get a penalty, it seemed like the Russians were able to stop them from having any success. Even their power play unit, one of the best, if not the best, in the tournament was stifled.
The second period was much better for Finland, it seemed as though they all had some nerves they needed to work out of their system before they could get to playing their game. In the second period alone, it seemed like Kapanen was getting some really great chances but couldn’t make them reach the back of the net. After one chance in particular, he couldn’t believe that he didn’t score he almost dropped to his knees. As Mark Masters tweeted, “if Finland loses by one, Kasperi Kapanen is going to have nightmares about these missed chances.”. I wouldn’t doubt it. In the past few games, Kapanen has been silently good. Tonight has been one of the best games I’ve seen him ever play.
“He’s unbelievable player, I mean, he’s great scorer, he can skate hard, he can hit hard and he’s good player and I’m happy for him” – Sebastian Aho on teammate Kasperi Kapanen
By the end of the second period, it seemed like Russia and Finland were playing a pretty equal game. Neither dominating the other. Both teams battling hard for space. The goalies have played a very good 40 minutes. Khakonen let in a goal on the first shot he faced but has since been very strong. Georgiev, on the other side, has been lights out. I’m not sure how he’s made some of the saves he’s pulled out but he was playing like a loss would mean he’s being shipped out to Siberia. With Bragin as coach, I’m trying to tell myself that wouldn’t be a potential punishment.
24 seconds in the third period, Patrik Laine tied the game, sending Hartwall arena into an absolute frenzy. It almost got as loud in here as the ACC got after Anthony Duclair opened the scoring a year ago tonight. The tie was short lived as the Russians came right back with a goal of their own. The Russian team that played most of this tournament wouldn’t have been able to come back and score so quickly. It’s insane how one team is able to change their entire style of play in less than 24 hours and, yet, somehow the Russians were able to. That takes true talent. With about 10 minutes left in the game, the kid line comes through again. A rocket from Aho beats Georgiev, sending the crowd into madness. Since Aho’s tying goal, the crowd hasn’t stopped clapping their fan-type things (I have yet to be given a name). I really do think that this is a thing I should be bringing back to North America, just because they look like so much fun.
While the Finns clearly have all the momentum working for them, Ivan Provorov takes a penalty. With the high the kid line has been riding this period, it was not a good time for this penalty. Even when the Finnish power play isn’t scoring, they’re still generating chances. Luckily for Russia, they were able to kill off Provorov’s penalty. Provorov hinted that, perhaps, late in the game, the referees were making calls to try to favour the home team.
“Disappointing right now… I thought we could have … Couple bounces our way and a couple calls that referees didn’t make, home team of course, but I mean, just if we were lucky today then maybe we would have won” – Ivan Provorov.
He’s not the only player to insinuate that the reffing was biased throughout the tournament. Jake Virtanen made comments on the equality of the reffing after Canada’s disappointing quarterfinal loss, as well as the Swedish players after Finland sent them to the Bronze Medal Game.
But, then the Russians took a second consecutive penalty. This penalty proved to be costly as Finnish Captain Mikko Rantanen’s shot from the blueline makes its way past Georgiev. Svetlakov tied the game with just a few seconds left sending this game to overtime. I wasn’t sure this arena could handle any more suspense and yet, here we are. At the end of the third period, Russian captain Vladislav Kamenev was ejected from the game for unsportsmanlike conduct. He was seen arguing with refs and eventually slammed his stick on the ice, which was the most likely reason he was ejected from the game. When asked about the ejection, Kamenev said (through a translator) “he asked the ref to be more attentive and the ref just gave him a penalty”. He was asked if he thought that the referees were biased towards Finland, he refused to comment.
“We just tried to enjoy the game like once in a lifetime opportunity like… Final … And now we’re champions in our home, home city and everything is awesome” – Sebastian Aho
A minute and a half into overtime, Maple Leafs prospect, Kasperi Kapanen scored the winner. Kapanen wasn’t able to walk us through the goal itself, he said that it was still a huge blur to him, surreal, but that it’s the kind of goal he grew up dreaming about scoring.
“I don’t know how to describe what I’m feeling right. In shock but so happy at the same time. I think we really deserved that gold medal. I think we played a really good tournament throughout and it’s hard to explain, it feels so good.” – Kasperi Kapanen
“Great experience for whole team, great experience for me. I played against really great players. I’m pretty sure they’re going to be NHL stars, world stars. Just a really great experience for me, I’m very proud” – Radel Fazleev on his time at World Juniors