By Andy Potts – IIHF.com
Finland grabs top spot
That win over Canada helped the Finns claim top spot – both in the Channel 1 Cup and the overall Eurotour standings. But the winning margin was complicated.
Over the course of the tournament, Russia compiled 10 points to Finland’s seven. However, the Russians played an extra game – the curtain-raiser against Canada on Dec. 15. As a result, Russia’s win over Sweden was discarded from the ranking. That made Sunday’s clash between Finland and the host nation into a winner-takes-all decider.
The curios continued. After 60 minutes, the teams were locked at 2-2. In overtime, though, the Russians tested a tactic successfully used by Sergei Fyodorov with CSKA Moscow in the KHL. Goalie Ivan Fedotov was called to the bench in favour of an extra skater; the gamble was that the Red Machine could retain possession and protect the empty net.
It didn’t pay off this time. Finland snatched possession and Sakari Manninen surged towards the empty net, only to be hauled down by Slava Voinov. Ordinarily, the foul would have resulted in a penalty shot, but with the empty net in play Manninen was credited with the winning goal. The Finns felt this was poetic justice after Voinov’s controversial goal late in the third period tied the game. There was nothing wrong with the defenceman’s shot, but Finnish observers were convinced that goalie Harri Sateri was impeded earlier in the play and head coach Jukka Jalonen was outspoken in his criticism of the officiating. “It was 100% interference,” the coach told the Iltalehti newspaper. “There’s nothing unclear and no reason why it shouldn’t be given. Even a blind man can see it.”
Russia tops Canada for the first time since 2017
The opening game saw Russia edge Canada 4-3, with the visitor fighting back from 1-4 after 40 minutes but falling just short in the third. That was the first time Russia defeated its old rival since the 2017 Channel 1 Cup, when Oleg Znarok’s team enjoyed a 2-0 victory in its final tournament before PyeongChang.
This time, Russia ramped up the Olympic history, donning a uniform inspired by the 1956 Soviet jerseys from the country’s first Olympic gold in Cortina d’Ampezzo. The Russian win came on goals from Lokomotiv’s Yegor Korshkov and Alexander Yelesin, plus further tallies from Nikita Nesterov and Vadim Shipachyov. The latter two were part of the 2018 golden roster in Korea.
Vladislav Tretiak, head of the Russian Hockey Federation, talked up the impact of Russia’s success. “No matter what line-ups the teams put out, games [against Canada] always attract extra interest,” he told Championat. “Almost the entire country is talking about this win. Maybe we’ll see the same in the Olympic final.”