HELSINKI – The bronze medal games is often called a game between two disappointed teams. Whoever can regroup best in the 24 hours they have between the disappointing semi-final and the bronze medal game will usually win it.
“Obviously right now it’s tough, but tomorrow we have to come here and somehow forget about this game, which is going to be tough. But that’s what we have to do: prepare ourselves for the game with the Finns tomorrow,” said Petr Nedved after yesterday’s semi-final loss.
That seems to work better for European teams than North American teams. Canada, for example, has played in the World Championship bronze medal game three times since 1999 and has lost all of them. Add to that the fact that they also lost the 1998 Olympic bronze medal game to Finland, and the pattern is clear.
For Finland, bronze is still a medal to play for, especially at home.
Since 1999, Finland has played in the bronze medal game four times, and has lost just one of them, in 2002 in Sweden, to Sweden.
“There’s a huge difference between finishing fourth and going home with a medal. We owe it to ourselves, we owe ourselves one more great game,” says Finland coach Jukka Jalonen.
“I don’t have so many medals in my career that I could afford to just turn my back on them,” says goaltender Petri Vehanen.
The home crowd will also surely help Finland to get up for the game, and leave everything on the ice. But Finland must be ready to meet a Czech team that’s just as hungry to take the medals.
“Every medal is good for the team. If you said before the tournament we’d have a bronze medal, we’d probably be happy. Obviously everybody wants to win the gold. But this is a good opportunity. We’re playing against a good team, so we’ll see what happens,” says Jiri Novotny.
“We have to learn from the mistakes we made today, try to relax a little bit, have a good evening off, try to forget this game, and be ready for tomorrow. We have to try for a medal. It’s a big game, and we’re going to be playing against Finland, who’s playing at home,” said Michael Frolik.
After many bouts over the years and in the Euro Hockey Tour, Petr Nedved says he knows what to expect from the Finns today.
“Finland is the best skating team in the tournament and a tough team. We'll regroup and get ready for tomorrow,” Nedved says.
Finland is also going for its best finish at a home tournament. In 1974, the hosts finished fourth, but slipped to fifth both in 1982, 1991, 1997, and 2003. In 1965, the team finished seventh.