Craziest hockey game I’ve seen live took place last night at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki when Finland took on the undefeated Russian team in the gold medal game of the 2016 World Junior Championships.
A rollercoaster of emotional ups and downs seemed to have reached its final destination when team captain Mikko Rantanen nearly blew the roof off after deflecting in a Vili Saarijärvi shot from the blueline for a 3-2 lead with two minutes left in the third period – only to have Russia pull off a soul-crushing comeback with a fortunate bounce off of red shin pads with 6.9 seconds remaining on the clock.
With the teams heading into overtime tied at 3, forward Kasperi Kapanen turned what had so far been a lackluster campaign on his part into WJC folklore.
A quick change of direction near the right offensive faceoff circle followed by a strong drive to the net left the Russian defense disorganized in their own zone, and a perfectly timed wrap-around was enough to wrap up the tournament in golden glory for the Finns.
Here’s highlight footage courtesy of TSN for all of you who missed the game. I don’t know about you, but this clip will be stuck on replay on my screen for the next few weeks.
Personally, this has been the most talented and fun to watch Finnish youth team I’ve had the chance to witness ever since I started following hockey back in 1994.
When you pull off comeback victories against Canada, Sweden and Russia in the playoffs, you deserve everything coming your way.
All that said, huge congratulations to our own Blues U20 forward, Finland #12 Kasper Björkqvist, and the entire Finnish U20 team for a home tournament forever etched in our memories.
That makes it two U20 gold medals in three years. Suddenly the state of Finnish youth hockey looks brighter than ever.
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Yunus Barisik, CSCS, is the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for an elite junior hockey organization based in Espoo, Finland. He has trained hundreds of hockey players at the junior, college and pro levels, including NHL Draft picks and World Champions. An accomplished author, Yunus has had articles published on top fitness and performance sites, including STACK and Muscle & Strength. He also wrote Next Level Hockey Training, a comprehensive resource for ice hockey players on building athletic strength, size and power, while staying injury-free.
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