By Andrew Podnieks – IIHF.com
Czechia overcame a 5-2 Finland lead and scored the only five goals of the third period to defeat Finland 8-5 and win the bronze medal, their second medal in as many years.
Tomas Hamara scored the winner at 18:19 off a faceoff win just 15 seconds after they had tied the score with the extra attacker. They then added two empty netters. It was a shocking collapse from Finland which looked dominant in the last half of the second period.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been in a game like this,” Hamara said, medal around his neck. “It was pretty crazy. To be honest, I was really down when they scored the fifth goal because it was my fault, a big mistake. But my teammates helped me a lot. They were cheering on the bench to pick me up. I knew I had to do something special, so I’m so glad I scored that goal, and so happy that we won. It means so much for us.”
That wild third period produced two records. The Czechs scored four goals in a span of just 50 seconds, obliterating the previous record of 68 seconds set by Canada in 1983. They also scored two goals in two seconds, both empty netters. The previous record was six seconds, set three times.
It was a game that featured two teams with very different records in bronze-medal games. The Finns had won five of seven games for third place while Czechia had won just one of seven. The pattern proved the opposite today.
“Our coaches did a great job preparing us,” Hamara added. “Even right after the game yesterday they were telling us we have no time to be sad or disappointed. Just focus on tomorrow because it’s a game for the bronze medal.”
Ondrej Becher had a hat trick and two assists while Jiri Kulich had two goals and two assists. Hamara had a goal and two helpers.
Finland got the early jump on the medals with two goals just 90 seconds apart. The first came at 6:13 when Rasmus Kumpulainen moved into the slot and fired a shot past the weak glove of Michael Hrabal, who has given up many a goal to the trapper side.
The Finns made it 2-0 off a turnover behind the Czechia net. Jani Nyman had a good look at the goal before shooting, netting his second goal of the tournament. After Hrabal surrendered this goal coach Patrik Augusta made a change, putting in Jakub Vondras, who was seeing his first action of the tournament.
The Czechs got back into the game on a late power play. Just seven seconds after Emil Pieniniemi was whistled for tripping, Matyas Melovsky made a perfect cross-ice pass back to door to captain Kulich, and his one-timer found the short side at 16:16.
As so often happens in the bronze game, a relatively tame opening period gave way to a wide-open second, and today that meant an explosion of goals, including three in just 34 seconds. The fun began on a Czech power play when Jakub Stancl’s shot from the middle of the ice slithered through the pads of Miklas Kokko, tying the game at 8:37.
But while that goal was being announced Finland struck twice on two similar plays. First Jani Nyman beat his man along the boards and fed Konsta Helenius with a nice pass to the back side, which he converted at 8:52. Then, 19 seconds later, Lenni Hameenaho took a similar pass from the other side from Oiva Keskinen and wired it in to give the Finns a 4-2 lead.
They added another on the power play five minutes later, a highlight-reel goal, to be sure. Hameenaho flew down the right side, beat Hamara with a gorgeous move, and backhanded the puck to the far side. Top-3 goal of the tournament.
Czechia, however, gave themselves a ray of hope with a short-handed goal in the final minute. Becher kept a tricky pass onside and went in alone, beating Kokko with a shot to the blocker side to make it 5-3.
“It was a huge goal for us, short-handed,” Hamara noted. “It makes such a big difference coming into the third being down two goals instead of three.”
Indeed, early in the third, they made life a little awkward for Finland, scoring on another power play at 4:41 to make it a one-goal game again. Kulich, with another brilliant one-timer, was the scorer.
That awkwardness became something worse for Finland–a tie game–late in the third with Vondras on the bench for a sixth attacker. Becher poppped home a loose puck at 18:04 to make it a 5-5 game. That comfortable 5-2 lead for Suomi was a thing of the distant past now.
And 15 seconds later, the game was decided when Hamara snapped a long shot in after a faceoff win. The Czechs added two empty netters to claim their second medal in as many years, and a stunned Finland skated off the ice finishing in fourth place.