Team Finland defeated the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) 2-1 to win the gold medal at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. It was the first gold medal they have earned in Olympic men’s hockey since their first appearance at the 1952 games in Oslo, Norway. Hannes Bjorninen scored the winning goal for the Finns, who finished with a perfect 6-0 record in the tournament. The ROC walked away with the silver medal despite entering Beijing as the tournament favorite.
Finland Earns Top Prize
Finland defeated Slovakia, Latvia, and Sweden in group play. They took down Switzerland in the quarterfinals before a second victory against Slovakia to earn a spot in the gold medal game. Defenseman Sami Vatanen properly summarized the historic victory over the ROC.
“It’s tough to find the words but we got what we came here for. We battled hard and we got the first Olympic gold medal in Finnish ice hockey history. So it’s something special and nobody can ever take it away from us.”
Vatanen has 473 games of NHL experience under his belt. He teamed up with 37-year-old captain Valtteri Filppula to form one of the most experienced duos of former NHL players in Beijing. Sakari Manninen and Teemu Hartikainen shared the team lead and the tournament lead in points with seven apiece. Harri Sateri stood tall between the pipes, allowing just five goals in five starts.
Finland controlled the pace of the gold medal game for most of the contest. They held a 14-4 advantage in shots late in the first period. Although they went scoreless on three power-play chances, they generated significant offensive pressure with the man advantage and forced the Russians back on their heels. Hannes Bjorninen put the Finns ahead 2-1 just 31 seconds into the third period. They stifled the talented Russian attack for the remainder of the game and walked away with the highest honor of international athletic competition.
ROC Takes Home the Silver
The ROC featured a deep lineup full of potent professional talent from the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), considered the second-best hockey league in the world by most international hockey experts. When the news emerged that NHL players wouldn’t participate in the Beijing Games, they became the de facto favorites as the returning champions from the 2018 games in Pyeongchang.
The Russians flaunted big names in key positions off the ice. Former NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk was their general manager while Alexei Zhamnov, Sergei Federov, and Sergei Gonchar all manned the bench. However, experienced professional players like Slava Voynov couldn’t help the ROC repeat as gold medalists.
Ivan Fedotov, an unsigned goaltending prospect for the Philadelphia Flyers, held the opposition to 10 goals over six starts during the tournament. The 25-year-old ran into some trouble in the semifinal matchup against Team Sweden, however, when he allowed multiple rebounds that resulted in high-danger scoring chances. Both goals he allowed against Finland came on shots outside of high-danger areas that were deflected before they reached the net.
Recapping the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing
In addition to the historic accomplishment by the Finnish team, Slovakia also earned the first Olympic medal in the history of their men’s ice hockey program. Prospect Juraj Slafkovsky stole the show and earned tournament MVP honors after Slovakia defeated Sweden in a consolation game to earn the bronze medal.
Finland’s performance made the Beijing Games memorable, but the unfortunate circumstances that prevented NHL players from participating significantly weakened the competition in the tournament. Hockey fans are starved for an international best-on-best tournament. The league plans to pause for the 2026 Winter Olympics in Milan and Cortina, but uncertainty remains considering the lapse in time since NHL players last participated in 2014.
Colin Newby is a freelance journalist from Delaware County, PA covering the Philadelphia Flyers for The Hockey Writers. He is an encyclopedia of useless sports knowledge with an uncanny ability to rattle off Flyers goaltending stats from 2004 and every Stanley Cup winner during his lifetime. The depths of his knowledge stem from spending his entire life following the Flyers and the NHL, from fan favorites like the “Legion of Doom” and Claude Giroux to forgotten journeymen like Andy Delmore and Branko Radivojevič. Colin also covers the Philadelphia Eagles and works for 97.5 The Fanatic in Philadelphia.