The 2016 World Junior Hockey Championship gold medal game couldn’t have had any more action than it did, with Finland taking the championship on home ice after coming from behind to beat Russia 4-3 in overtime.
It took just one shot for the Russians to take the 1-0 lead. With Finnish netminder Kaapo Kähkönen putting his team down a man after flicking the puck out of play, the Russians used their power play to take the advantage just 4:50 into the game. Vladislav Kamenev, the late-game hero for Russia in their quarter-final win over Denmark, got the game going with a wicked one-timer to the left of Kähkönen to give Russia the lead.
The Russians looked like a team on a mission. Being just a goal away from winning a year ago definitely helped fuel the fire for the team that hadn’t won before 2011. Kähkönen, however, was very strong in the opening period, making 12 stops in the first period alone. At the other end, Alexandar Georgiyev had the two toughest chances, making big pad stops on Finland’s lone power play in the first period to keep his lead intact heading into the second stanza.
The Finns didn’t get a single point from their powerful first line who combined for half of the goals during the round robin. But if anyone was going to tie the game up at one, it was going to be one of their 17-year-old superstars. Just 24 seconds into the third period, Joni Tuulola kicked the puck up to Jesse Puljujärvi in the neutral zone. From there, Puljujärvi found Patrik Laine speeding in, allowing his teammate to take the shot and tie things up at one.
Unfortunately for them, the Finns would find themselves back down a goal quickly. Just a minute later, a bad giveaway by Olli Juolevi near the Finnish zone worked out perfectly for Andrei Svetlakov, who rushed in and fired a shot past Kähkönen to give them the important lead.
But, unfortunately for them, it wasn’t good enough. Puljujärvi, of course, stole the puck behind the Russian net, finding Sebastian Aho in front for the 2-2 goal. It was a big moment for Puljujärvi, as the future Finnish superstar was able to tie Eric Lindros for the second-highest point total for a 17-year-old in the tournament with 17 points. To give him a bit of extra motivation, Jaromir Jagr was just one point away at 18, meaning he could tie it assuming Finland could find the net at least one more time.
The Finns would score with two minutes to go, but it wouldn’t be because of the first line. With the Russians down a man, Finnish captain Mikko Rantanen was in a great position to touch the hard shot in the air from Vili Saarijärvi, giving Finland their first lead of the game.
With under ten seconds left in the game, everything looked to be over for the Russians. That all changed with just 6.9 seconds left on the clock with their net empty. Doing their best to desperately tie the game up, Ivan Provorov’s hard shot from far out was tipped in by Svetlakov just in front of the crease, stunning the Finnish fans before sending the game to overtime.
Overtime wouldn’t last long, something the Finns would not complain about. Kasperi Kapanen, who had a very quiet tournament for the most part, made a great play to beat Sergei Boikov before heading around the net. His speed proved to be too much for Georgiyev in the Russian net, going around the back before jamming the puck in on the wraparound to win the 2016 World Junior Hockey Championships in front of a sold out Finnish crowd.
With the win, Finland was able to celebrate their second championship in the past three years. A year ago, the Finns needed a win against Germany on the final day of the round-robin to secure their spot in the quarter-finals, with the relegation round being a definite scare for the 2016 hosts. Finland’s gold is the fourth of their lifespan in the tournament, with their 14th overall medal tying Czechoslovakia/Czech Republic for fourth all time.
For Russia, their sixth straight medal is good to give them the longest streak out of any team in the tournament, but their 2011 gold medal was the last one that they truly wanted. A year ago, Russia forced Canada into a tight game, but they’d eventually lose 5-4 after forcing Canada to play on their heels in the third period.
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