The scene is set for a showdown with Russia this weekend, after the Finnish Lions dispatched reigning World Champions Sweden, and sent them packing with a thrilling 5-4 overtime victory on Thursday night.
The game kept spectators in Kosice, as well as viewers in Finland, on the edge of their seats as it seemed until the last second of regular play that the Three Crowns would romp home with a famous win.
The Lion had other ideas.
Finland opened up the scoring early in the first period with a goal from Niko Mikkola, but the Swedes got three goals in the back of the net to establish a comfortable 3-1 lead by the start of the second period.
Finland clawed back two more goals from Petteri Lindbohm and Jani Hakanpää to level the score by the middle of the second period, only to see the Swedes strike back just before the whistle at the end of the second period to lead 4-3 and the score stayed that way until just 87 seconds of regular play left in the third period, when a goal from Marko Anttila forced the 3-on-3 overtime.
With a place in the semi-finals at stake, Sakari Manninen sealed the deal with Finland’s fifth goal of the night.
“We always believed” Finland’s Juho Lammikko after the game.
“We had a lot of chances to put the puck in the net. You never quit until the final whistle […] It’s a 60-minute game. We didn’t let it bother us when they had the lead. Good things happen when you never give up” he told reporters.
The Finnish Lions now face eastern rivals Russia in the semi-final in Bratislava on Saturday afternoon. The winner of that game plays either Canada or the Czech Republic in Sunday’s gold medal match.