BRATISLAVA (Reuters) – Finland completed a fairytale world championship after they came from behind to beat favorites Canada 3-1 and clinch their third gold medal in an absorbing final on Sunday.
The Finns, who beat the Canadians by the same score in their opening group-stage match, were underdogs in all three knockout stage games but they defied the odds to shock 2018 champions Sweden, Russia and Canada en route to the title.
It was a case of history repeating itself for the battling Finns, who won their previous title at the same venue in 2011.
“It’s awesome,” said Finland forward Toni Rajala. “It’s something that you know might only happen once in your life, but even before the game it felt great. I wasn’t too nervous about it, I was enjoying it.”
Canada, who were aiming for a record 27th title, dominated the opening period as Shea Theodor fired them ahead midway through with a brilliant solo effort.
The Vegas Golden Knights defenceman weaved his way through three Finnish players and found the top corner with a superb wrist-shot after Oliwer Kaski had missed a penalty for Finland.
Canada hit the crossbar twice and those misses, coupled with lapses in concentration early in the second and third periods, cost them dearly.
Finland captain Marko Anttila, who scored the winner in the 1-0 semi-final win over Russia, was instrumental again as he leveled two minutes and 35 seconds into the second period when he beat goaltender Matt Murray with a fizzing low shot.
At exactly the same point in the third period, the towering Anttila punished the Canadians again as he popped up in front of goal and swept a fine Veli-Matti Savinainen assist into the roof of the net.
Harri Pesonen sealed Finland’s memorable win in the closing stages and the Canadians failed to create much up front in the dying minutes although they threw men forward in the Ondrej Nepela Arena.
Canada defenceman Damon Severson had mixed emotions.
“It was a long tournament, a lot of fun, a lot of good guys,” he said.
“It’s unfortunate we got the wrong medal. Finland played a good game, the only team to beat us in this tournament was them, twice, and they played some good hockey.
“It’s unfortunate we’re not going home with gold.”
Earlier on Sunday, Russia won the bronze medal with a penalty shootout win over the Czech Republic as the match finished 2-2 after regulation and overtime.
Nikita Gusev and Ilya Kovalchuk netted Russia’s goals in the shootout as the Czechs, who had led 2-1 in regular time after falling behind early on, missed all of their four attempts.
(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Toby Davis)