Russian hockey stars suffer Olympic heartbreak as Finns make history

The ROC team was unable to defend its Olympic title in Beijing

The Russian men’s ice hockey team fell agonizingly short in its quest to retain its Olympic title, losing a tense final against Finland in Beijing on Sunday.

The Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) stars had been hoping to make it back-to-back gold medals following their success in PyeongChang four years ago, and got off to an ideal start when Mikhail Grigorenko gave them the lead just over seven minutes into the first period at the National Indoor Stadium. 

But chasing a maiden Olympic gold, the Finns hit back at the 23:28 mark through Ville Pokka, who plays his club hockey in the KHL at Russian club Avangard Omsk.

The Finns continued to pepper the Russian goal with shots and made the breakthrough when an effort from 36-year-old veteran Marko Anttila deflected in via Hannes Bjorninen just 30 seconds into the third period.

It set things up for a tense conclusion as the Finns pushed to add to that margin before shutting out the ROC in a fraught final few minutes.

Having gone unbeaten throughout the 2022 Games, the Finns celebrated wildly at the end after capturing a first-ever ice hockey gold at the Olympics after settling for silver twice in past years.

“Great team. Great effort. It wasn’t easy for us, but we found a way to win every game,” said Anttila of the triumph.

“We found a way to win these tough games.”

It was history for Finland in China. © Elsa / Getty Images

The ROC team missed out on the chance to defend their crown from South Korea and capture what would have been a ninth Olympic title overall (including as part of the Soviet Union).

The 2022 Beijing Games was the second straight Olympic tournament without the stars of the NHL, after bosses in the North American league refused to free them to compete.

In the bronze medal match on Saturday, Slovakia won their first Olympic men’s hockey medal by hammering Sweden 4-0.  

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