Finland won world championship gold against Russia in World Juniors (men under 20’s) ice hockey at Helsinki Arena on Tuesday night with a score 4-3.
It was a game as intense and thrilling as watching a movie.
In the first five minutes, Russia took the lead, and despite various powerful attempts by the Young Lions and even after two penalties for the Russians along the way, the red-clothed neighbour held the score until the first 24 seconds of the third period. That’s when Patrik Laine, 17, after a pass, snapped the puck past the Russian goalie, Aleksandr Georgiev.
But in under two minutes, Andrei Svetlakov soloed his way through the Finnish defence and scored past the glove of Kaapo Kähkönen.
In midway of the period, Sebastian Aho scored even. After Russia received a penalty, Mikko Rantanen tipped in another point, now Finland taking the lead.
That’s when the 19-year-old Russian team captain, Vladislav Kamenev, lost his nerve. After an argument with one of the referees, he was sent to the penalty box. Before entering, he smashed his stick into the rink and hit the remaining part on the hand of an official causing the hand to bleed. Kamenev received a 10-minute penalty and was ejected from the game.
Russia started deploying desperate means. The goalie was taken off from the ice to bring in six players. When there was only six seconds left of the period, Russia shot a goal. The score was now 3-3.
The game went overtime. But after about a minute, Kasperi Kapanen played the Russian defender out of the game and scored with a wrap around from behind the goal. The full house of about 13,400 spectators couldn’t stop cheering. Finland had won the world championships!
— Helsingin Sanomat (@hsfi) January 5, 2016
Soon after, two men undressed naked and went for a “swim” into the empty fountain of Havis Amanda at the Market Square in an ice cold weather of -20 degrees Celsius. As a symbol for the victory and, yes, Finnish guts and madness.
Meanwhile at the arena, Jukka Jalonen, the head coach of the Young Lions, said in a live TV interview for YLE that one of the reasons for the victory was simply a decision made with the boys before the overtime period. “We decided to win. That was it.”
President Sauli Niinistö, who observed the game with his spouse, Jenni Haukio, said that “I have not experienced such an exciting sports event since the victory of Lasse Viren in 1972 (he won Olympic gold in 5,000 metres).”
Earlier, President Niinistö talked on the phone with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin. Putin had called Niinistö to wish a Happy New Year and he wanted to thank for their cooperation in 2015. The presidents also discussed the game of the evening. “May the best team win,” they said to each other.
After the game, social media was flooded with humorous images. One of them was a picture of crying Putin.
At 01:20, cars were honking along Mannerheimintie in Helsinki centre, and people were waving national flags out of the windows. The freeze was chewing your face off, but many fans in the street were dressed surprisingly lightly, attired in a beanie and a thin winter coat, which was covered with a jersey of their favourite junior player. Many were sipping beer from an ice cold can. “Finland is the world champion, the world champion . . . ,” the screams (songs?) echoed around you.
I gave high fives to the oncoming people on Northern Esplanade while on my way to see Amanda.
At the fountain, people had climbed on top of the statue clothed in the national hockey shirt and Finnish flag. I leaped into the waterless fountain where dozens of people were jumping, thumping and screaming in ecstasy and, obviously, just to keep warm. The cold breeze blowing from the sea froze the fingers into popsicles. After a few poses and photographs, I couldn’t take it anymore.
Around 02:25, on a side street next to the Citizens’ Square, an old Toyota from the early ’90s passed me slowly. It was a miracle that the car was even running in this weather but a young man was reaching out from the backseat window in his shirt, his bare head in the cold.
He was waving his hand.
“Finland beat Russia,” he screamed and pointed at me.
“We sure did,” I shouted, barely feeling my lips.