An enterprising little solo skate along the goal line by an ambitious defenseman deep in the offensive zone led to directly to the deciding strike nearing the halfway point of the twenty-minute overtime session and permitted underdog FINLAND to complete a dramatic 3-2 victory over long-time arch-rival SWEDEN in the GOLD MEDAL GAME of the 2014 IIHF World Championships at the Malmo Arena in Sweden.
Goaltender JUUSE SAROS of HPK Hameenlinna was, perhaps, the real star of the show as Finland celebrated just its third title ever in the 37-year history of the planet’s premier tournament for teenagers. The 18-year-old who was plucked by the Nashville Predators in the fourth round (# 99 overall) of the 2013 National Hockey League Draft seven months ago, proved instrumental for a counterattack-minded Suomi all throughout the contest and ended up stopping 35 of 37 Swedish shots. Aside from the coveted gold medal, Saros was also awarded a place on the competition’s official All-Star squad after appearing in six of Finland’s seven games (1.57 avg, .943 svpct) in Malmo.
The Finns, who avenged the earlier 4-2 loss to their western neighbors in the round robin phase of this year’s tournament but still trail in the all-time series record between the two countries at the IIHF World Junior Championships (the Swedes have 15 wins against 14 losses and a pair of draws), actually required only 28 seconds to get on the scoreboard in the all-Scandinavian Gold Medal Game at the Malmo Arena. A long wrist shot from the left point by Finland defenseman ESA LINDELL, the third round choice (# 74 overall) of the Dallas Stars at the 2012 NHL Draft, somehow eluded Sweden goaltender OSCAR DANSK, the second round choice (# 31 overall) of the Columbus Blue Jackets at the very same 2012 NHL Draft. It was an uncharacteristic mistake from Dansk, the 19-year-old native of Stockholm who would ultimately be named the tournament’s Best Goaltender by the IIHF Directorate for his distinguished efforts throughout the Malmo tournament (6 ga, 1.79 avg, .929 svpct) on behalf of Tre Kronor throughout the entire Malmo tournament.
Sweden had won all six of its contests at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championships going into the Gold Medal Game on home ice in Malmo and were eager to celebrate its third title in history. Tre Kronor had also defeated its historical nemesis Suomi five times in succession at the World Juniors — Finland had not defeated Sweden since 2006 and had been soundly thrashed 9-2 the last time the two teams skated on the same sheet of Swedish ice in 1993 at Gavle. So it should come as no great surprise that Tre Kronor twice managed to level terms (albeit with the aid of power plays) after falling behind to the Finns at the Malmo Arena.
Still, less than ten minutes remained in regulation time when Sweden defenseman CHRISTIAN DJOOS of IF Brynas Gavle, the seventh round selection (# 195 overall) of the Washington Capitals at the 2012 NHL Draft, found the back of the net with a seeing-eye laser from the point that magically eluded a maze of players in front before tucking neatly into the top right hand corner. And the Swedes never were able to produce a winner for the home folks in the country’s third-largest city despite maintaing consistent pressure against Finland. Left wing FILIP FORSBERG, the 19-year-old who has already skated in a dozen NHL contests (one goal, four assists) for the Nashville Predators this season, was a shadow of the prolific player who had averaged two points per game in Sweden’s first six contests at this 2014 IIHF World Junior Championships in Malmo.
And so, it was left for Finland defenseman RASMUS RISTOLAINEN, the promising 19-year-old native of Turku whom the Buffalo Sabres made the eighth overall player chosen at the 2012 NHL Draft, to settle epic clash with its traditional arch-rival after almost ten minutes of overtime. TEUVO TARAVAINEN of Jokeit Helsinki, the first round choice (# 18 overall) of the Chicago Black Hawks at the 2012 NHL Draft who assisted on all three of Finland’s goals during this Gold Medal Game, started a wraparound play and Ristolainen was able to pickup the puck at the goal line along the boards on the right. Unchallenged, the Finnish rearguard simply headed straight for the net and skillfully stickhanded past the Swedish duo of the pre-occupied defenseman ROBERT HAGG from Mo Do Ornskolsvik and the particularly passive center ELIAS LINDHOLM from the NHL’s Carolina Hurricane before forcing the puck through the pads of the Tre Kronor custodian Dansk.
Finland defenseman RASMUS RISTOLAINEN (5) from the American Hockey League’s Rochester Americans slips the puck just under the right pad of Sweden goaltender OSCAR DANSK to score the always-rare “Golden Goal” almost halfway through the overtime session of the Gold Medal Game at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championshps in Malmo, Sweden.
January 5, 2014
2014 IIHF World Junior Championships – Gold Medal Game
Malmo Arena : Attendance : 12,023
FINLAND 3 – SWEDEN 2 … (overtime)
00:28 … FIN – Lindell (Maenalanen, Teravainen)
27:53 … SWE – Wallmark (Bengtsson, Djoos) – ppg
28:38 … FIN – Maenalanen (Teravainen, Lehkonen)
50:53 … SWE – Djoos (Wallmark, Collberg) – ppg
69:42 … FIN – Ristolainen (Teravainen, Vainonen)
shots-on-goal : SWE 37 (12 + 14 + 6 + 5) – FIN 31 (11 + 7 + 7 + 6)
penalty minutes : FIN 12 – SWE 4
referees : Papp (Canada) and Stricker (Switzerland)
SWEDEN : Dansk – Djoos, Arnesson ; Bengtsson, Olofsson ; Norell, Hagg – Johnson, Wennberg, Collberg ; Forsberg, Lindholm, de la Rose ; Burakowsky, Wallmark, Sorensen ; E. Karlsson, Sundqvist, Sandberg ; A. Karlsson
FINLAND : Saros – Lindell, Pokka ; Lehtonen, Ristolainen ; Honka, Vaionen ; Vainio – Lehkonen, Teravainen, Maenalanen ; Nikko, Mustonen, Haapala ; Nattinen, Kinnunen, J. Ikonen ; H. Ikonen, Rauhala, Leskinen
Notes — Sweden were without suspended defenseman JESPER PETTERSSON of HC Linkoping while the Finns also only suited up 19 skaters