Golden goal seals men’s ice hockey title for OAR team
Kirill Kaprizov and Nikita Gusev were the heroes for the Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR) Ice Hockey team as they edged a truly thrilling encounter 4-3 against surprise finalists Germany at the Gangneung Hockey Centre on the final day of PyeongChang 2018.
The match went into overtime after the two teams were locked at 3-3 at the end of the three 20-minute periods. That meant the prospect of a sudden death finish, and it was Kaprizov’s goal 10 minutes into the extra period that clinched it for the OAR team. The assist came from Gusev, who had already contributed two goals himself, and finished the tournament as points leader with four goals and eight assists.
After a nervous start to the match, OAR team got the better of the early exchanges and their reward eventually came with 0.5 seconds left on the clock in the first period when Vyacheslav Voinov sent a high shot past German goaltender Danny Aus Den Birken.
The Germans – playing in their first ever Olympic ice hockey final – upped the intensity in the second period and equalised through Felix Schutz, who beat OAR goaltender Vasily Koshechkin from an acute angle.
As both teams went in search of a winner, the game opened up in the final period, and the floodgates opened. Nikita Gusev restored the OAR team’s lead, before Dominik Kahun made it 2-2. When Jonas Muller scored again for Germany a huge upset looked possible; however, with less than a minute left on the clock, Gusev scored again to send the game into overtime.
No miracle on ice for Germany
Pavel Datsyuk (OAR) admitted that his team had perhaps been burdened by the favourite tag and were at times too cautious. “In truth, being the favourites always weighs down on you,” said the OAR team captain. “You saw how we started playing with the Czechs [in the semi-final] and how we started today with the Germans. We were very careful because there is such pressure."
Datsyuk was on the bench going into the final minutes of regulation time, and he admitted that the tension was almost too much to bear before Gusev’s last-minute equaliser.
“The hearts of all the players on the bench stopped. We were waiting for this. And when [Gusev] scored, our hearts started beating.
For Germany it was a heart-breaking end to a fairy-tale journey which had taken them to a final nobody, not least their own players, expected them to contest. It turned out to be one of the most exciting Olympic finals of all time, in which the underdogs matched their opponents for much of the game, and even came within a minute of a momentous upset.
“It's a little tough right now because we all felt we could have won that game, but that's hockey, that's just the way it is,” reflected German coach Marco Sturm. “We all thought we would sit at home and watch the final on the couch. But here we are. The boys are going to bring silver home and they should be proud.”
German captain Marcel Goc said the team, who previously knocked out heavyweights Sweden and Canada, had always felt they could cause a shock, but reaching the final still felt like a dream."We believed we could do something great here, for us this was our dream, our miracle," he said. "It still seems a little unreal but once we get home, get off that plane and see friends, family we will realise what happened."