But in the men’s competition, the Russian national team – which was officially competing as the Russian Olympic Committee as a punishment for the country’s history of doping – was the favorite before the tournament, if imperfect.
The Russians almost lost their first match in Beijing, a meeting with the Swiss. Then they beat Denmark, which was showing its Olympics in men’s hockey, by two goals. The Czech team beat the Russians 6-5 to finish the preliminary round.
They still secured a place in the quarter-finals, beating Denmark again, and then survived a semi-final against Sweden on Friday night, when it took 17 penalty shootout shots to determine the winner.
The Finns had a somewhat smoother path into Sunday’s meeting: they beat Slovakia in the preliminary round, where they also beat Latvia and beat Sweden, stripping Switzerland in the quarter-finals. They narrowly beat the Slovak team in the semi-finals but led by a game well below their Russian counterparts.
But it was the Russians who scored the first goal on Sunday. Mikhail Grigorenko, a striker who was part of Russia’s gold-medal-winning team in 2018 and previously played in the NHL, curled a shot into the net, with almost 13 minutes to play in the first half, past Finland’s Harry Satri.
The Finns tied the game early in the second half, when Phil Buka, a Finnish defensive man, fired a shot from the edge of the rink, just in front of his seat and just yards from the blue line. The disc was skipped by a Finnish-Russian player and Ivan Fedotov, the 25-year-old net keeper who was born in Finland but grew up in St Petersburg, Russia.
Fedotov opened the third half with more misery: after just 31 seconds, Hannes Bjorninen substituted an earlier period in the penalty area with a volley at the Russian net.
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