76 OG : Finland Flounders Early, Finally Flattens Japan


==========================================================
MATTI RAUTIAINEN, who played for three Tampere city clubs of Koo Vee, Ilves and Tappara in the Finnish elite league over the course of his 15-year career, only ever represented the national team of Finland at four major international tournaments (28 games, 12 goals) from 1976 thru 1979.
==========================================================

The Opening Ceremony at the historic Bergiselstadion to formally initiate the proceedings at the 1976 Winter Olympics was still a day in coming but the ice hockey competition for the Innsbruck Games was already well underway inside the Olympiahalle … three more places for the medal round had yet to be determined as FINLAND and JAPAN prepared to drop the puck and start the second day of play in the qualification round.

Whereas the Finns were legitimate contenders to fashion at least a bronze medal, the Japanese arrived in the Austrian Alps seeded 10th out of 12 teams competing at the ’76 Innsbruck Games. Still, the underdogs on skates from the Land of the Rising Sun succeed in getting the audience’s attention at the Olympiahalle by holding Finland scoreless for the first 20 minutes of the match. Furthermore, Japan had actually gone in front thanks to a goal by HIDEO URABE of Oji Seishi Tomakomai with a little over two and a half minutes remaining in the opening session.

20-year-old MATTI RAUTIAINEN of Koo Vee Tampere, one of six players on trainer SEPPO LIITSOLA’s 18-man roster making their debut for Finland at a major international tournament, restored a measure of order for Suomi by equalizing two minutes into the second period. But, amazing enough, the Japanese continued to stay even with their more accomplished adversaries until half of the qualification contest had come and gone. At this point, though, the Finns awoke from their slumber to net three goals in as many minutes via PERTTI KOIVULAHTI of Tappara Tampere and two more from Rautiainen, both set up by 1975 Boston Bruins draft pick MATTI HAGMAN of IFK Helsinki.

======================================================

======================================================
JORMA VEHMANEN, who spent almost all of his career with Lukko Rauma (right) save one season with HJK Helsinki (73/74), appeared at ten major international tournaments (70 ga, 10 go, 18 pts) for Suomi from 1966 thru 1976; altogether, Vehmanen contested 175 games and counted 36 goals for the national team of Finland over the course of his career.
======================================================

Still another rookie, 23-year-old TAPIO KOSKINEN of Assat Pori, capped off the five-goal outburst which opened the final frame with his second strike at 48:04 as Rautiainen, yet again, HENRY LEPPA of Jokerit Helsinki and 30-year-old veteran JORMA VEHMANEN of Lukko Rauma all put their names on the scoresheet in the third period at the Olympiahalle, as well.

MINORU ITO of Iwakura Tomakomai, appearing at the ice hockey competition of the Winter Games for the third time in his career, added a second goal for Japan with eight minutes to go but this would not prevent the Finns from finally reaching double digits in the waning stages as the ambitious Rautiainen registered his fifth goal of this Olympic qualification contest while Vehmanen notched his second with two minutes remaining to leave the final result at 11-2.

Finland, as expected, moved forward into the final round for the medals at the ’76 Innsbruck Games.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.