Finland's women's hockey team will be taking home a medal from the 2022 Winter Olympics, and its men's team is following suit. The Finnish men are headed to the gold medal game after taking down Slovakia 2-0 in their semifinal tilt early Friday morning.
Forwards Sakari Manninen and Harri Pesonen both netted goals for Finland in the victory. Goaltender Harri Sateri, who's been outstanding throughout the Games, made 28 saves against the Slovaks to log his first shutout of the men's tournament. Sateri has now allowed just four goals on 115 shots against.
"It was a tough game but a good win," said Sateri after the game.
"It was a tough battle but we did a great job as a team defending in the middle. We kept them outside, so the guys helped me a lot today."
Manninen netted the first goal of the game after sliding his own rebound under the right pad of Slovakian netminder Patrik Rybar late in the opening stanza.
Slovakia pulled Rybar late in the third period to try and score the equalizer with an extra attacker on the ice, but the Slovaks were unable to solve Sateri, and Pesonen took advantage of the vacated net to double the Finland lead and ultimately seal the victory.
“I thought they did a remarkable job," said Slovakia head coach Craig Ramsay. "We knew how they would play and they did it and they did it extremely well."
“They clogged up the neutral zone and, more importantly I think, was the play in their own end. We just had real trouble with them because they were so strong and so quick."
“Our kids tried. We had some speed and we created a few opportunities, but they played well."
Breakout sensation Juraj Slafkovsky of Slovakia was held off the scoresheet, but the 17-year-old still found ways to make plays for his squad. In the third period, the highly-touted prospect caused a turnover on a Finland power play and generated a 2-on-1 shorthanded rush. His strong effort didn't result in a goal, but it did show the sky-high potential the future NHLer already possesses.
Slafkovsky finished the game with over 20 minutes of ice time. Slovakia captain Marek Hrivik was the only forward on the roster to see more action.
Finland now has a chance to win its first-ever hockey gold medal at the Olympics. The Finns have appeared in the men's gold medal game twice, but lost both times — once against the Soviet Union in 1988 and again to Sweden in 2006. Win or lose in the title game, the Finns are guaranteed to take home the nation's seventh Olympic medal in men's hockey.
"It feels amazing. You can think about these things before the tournament or even during the tournament," said Finland forward Marko Anttila. "Now it's possible. We have to play a better game than we did today to win the gold medal. We are ready for that."
Puck drop for the gold medal game is set for 11:10 p.m. ET Saturday night. Finland will take on the winner of the semifinal tilt between the ROC and Sweden.