Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Helluva Finnish

Congratulations go to Finland today who captured the 2016 World Junior Hockey Championship gold medal after a thrilling 4-3 overtime victory over Russia. It's a little bit of deja vu for both these countries as Finland downed Russia in the Helsinki Ice Hall in 1998 by a 4-3 score in overtime. For Finland, it's their fourth gold medal and second gold medal in three years as the country celebrates tonight ahead of a national holiday. Let the party begin!

The line of Patrik Laine, Sebastian Aho, and Jesse Puljujärvi should go down as one of the best in the tournament's history. This line was as dominant as any seen before, and were the engine that drove this Finnish team. Add in some excellent scoring depth in the likes of Kasperi Kapanen, who scored the golden goal, and Mikko Rantanen, and this Finnish team was as dangerous as they've ever been.

Finland has long rode the strength of amazing goaltending to success and they got good goaltending out of Veini Vehviläinen and Kaapo Kähkönen, but this team was built on speed and skill rather than a grind-it-out game backed by exceptional goaltending. When historians look back on this win by Finland, they will see a balanced team who rallied when down and showed exceptional resiliency and determination in earning this gold medal.

It didn't come easy, either. There were no "gimme" games. After finishing second-place in the pool, the Finns went through Canada, Sweden, and Russia en route to the gold medal - three powerhouses with multiple draft picks playing on those teams. The game against Canada was a back-and-forth affair that was decided by special teams after Canada ran into penalty problems. Sweden proved to be a much more conservative game on the scoreboard, but the two Scandinavian rivals fought for every inch on the ice before Finland finally dispatched their neighbours. And Russia took them to overtime after tying the game with 6.9 seconds left in another thrilling game.

Each of those games were won by a single Finnish goal. Including this game.

Drink it up, Finland. You are hockey's elite for 2016. It was well-earned and well-deserved. Congratulations to Finland - your 2016 World Junior Hockey Champions!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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