Lions on wheels

Finland defeats Canada to claim 2014 Inline hockey crown

07.06.2014
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It’s gotta be those jerseys.

Wearing the powder-blue sweaters that became fan favourites, Team Finland capped off a dominant 2014 inline hockey season with an undefeated record and its first IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship gold medal in 11 years, defeating Canada 6-2. 

Canada – Finland  6-2 (1-0, 1-1, 1-1, 3-0) Postgame

Down 3-2 in the final period, Canada gave up an early power-play goal to the Finns. Kari Lohtander scored on slapshot from the left circle to give his team the 4-2 lead.

Then Kim Stromberg, whose two goals sunk the Canadians in the preliminary round, added another on the power play after Canada's Kirk French was called for slashing. 

The nail on the coffin for Canada was a technical goal given to the Finns after an attacking Finnish player was brought down by a player on the Canadian bench. The 6-2 lead put the game out of reach and denied any chance at a Canadian comeback, giving the Finns the victory and their first gold medal of the 2010s.

"Feels amazing, I was there as a player 11 years ago and it's been a long time and a lot of great people involved with inline hockey in Finland," said team captain Jesse Saarinen, who played on the last Finnish team to win inline gold. "It's a great reward for everybody who's been working for this for a long time and I'm just so proud of the team that we were able to put the Finnish Lion back to the top."

The 2014 gold medal game kicked off with both teams playing a fast up-and-down game putting goaltenders Brett Leggat and Sasu Hovi to the test early. The pace seemed to affect the Canadians for the worse, as team showed signs of weariness after having played back-to-back shootout playoff games.

"We knew that and that was the plan because we had four couples and forwards and three couples of D," said Finnish head coach Timo Nurmberg. "We knew that the further the game goes we would be stronger."

Finland struck first when Kari Lohtander got the puck into the Canadian zone and picked a perfect cross-crease pass to an open Petri Partanen, who fired in it from the right circle for the 1-0 lead.

The Finns went up 2-0 early in the second with a wraparound effort by Tomi Penttinen, looping around the Canadian net and firing a low shot on Leggat, who could not get his paddle down in time to stop the puck going in.

Canada tried to slow things down and play more of a puck-possession game following the second Finnish goal. The team got a desperately-needed break when Juri Aalto was called for hooking. On the power play, David Hammond‘s wrist shot from the point found its way in to cut the lead to 2-1.

Canada tied the game in the third period with a well-placed shot from Chris Rauckman that went from the left circle to the far post, bouncing off it and into the net.

But the Finns replied almost immediately when Partanen came into the Canadian zone and found himself surrounded by three Canadian defenders. The Finnish forward waited until the defenceman in front of him was screening Leggat before firing a wrist shot that went underneath Leggat’s right arm, putting the Finns back up 3-2. It would be the closest the Canadians would get, as Finland would not relinquish the lead again.

"Right now it's not the best feeling in the world," said Canadian captain Kirk French. "I think that after some time, maybe tomorrow morning, we'll wake up and it'll sink in what we accomplished this past weekend knocking off the one-seed U.S. and the two-seed Czechs. We came in a little tired because the guys put it out there the last couple of games. It is what it is, you learn by losing not winning." 

The win gives Finland its first inline hockey gold medal since 2003. Canada gets its seventh overall medal at the inline hockey worlds, and its third silver.
 
ADAM STEISS

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