Men’s ice hockey: Canadians on cloud nine as they see off Sweden to retain crown
Canada defeated Sweden 3-0 to win gold at the Bolshoi Ice Dome and notch a record ninth Olympic title. They also became the first team to secure back-to-back titles since 2002. The final place on the podium went to Finland, who were bidding farewell to the remarkable Teemu Selänne, who at the tender age of 43 extended his own Olympic points record to… 43.
14-16 February: Group stages
The initial phase of the competition saw three sets of four teams compete on a round-robin basis, with USA (Group A), Canada (Group B), and Sweden (Group C), all topping their groups undefeated to earn direct qualification for the quarter-finals. They were joined by best second-placed team, Finland who finished behind Sweden in Group C. The other eight teams then went into the qualification play-offs to do battle for the remaining four spots in the last eight. The undoubted highlight of the group stages was the showdown between hosts Russia and the USA on 15 February, evoking memories of the ‘Miracle on Ice’ back at Lake Placid 1980. After the two teams were locked together at 2-2, and unable to find a winner during overtime, the match was finally decided in a penalty shootout, with USA’s T.J. Oshie keeping his nerve to produce the decisive goal.
18 February: Qualification play-offs
Alexander Radulov scored twice while fellow forwards Ilya Kovalchuk and Alexei Tereshenko also found the net as Russia beat Norway 4-0 to set up a quarter-final encounter with Finland. Sergei Bobrovski stopped 22 shots for the shutout, while captain Pavel Datsyuk contributed three assists.
Earlier in the day, Olympic debutants Slovenia defeated Austria, scoring three times in the first 24 minutes en route to a 4-0 win to tee up a match against Sweden in the last eight.
“Small Slovenia, playing in the quarterfinal of the Olympic Games?” said Slovenian goaltender Robert Kristan after completing a 30-save shutout. “Let's say it is a miracle because this is really amazing.”
Neighbours Czech Republic and Slovakia produced the highest scoring game of the day, an eight-goal thriller, which saw the Czechs prevail 5-3 to move into the last eight and a match against USA
In the other game, Latvia were surprise 3-1 victors over Switzerland, who had beaten them in their group stage opener. An early goal from Oskars Bartulis and a double from Lauris Darzins helped Latvia on their way to a first ever quarter-final appearance and their first Olympic men’s ice hockey victory since 2002. Their reward was an encounter with defending champions Canada.
19 February: Quarter-finals
Sweden, Finland, Canada and USA advanced to the semi-finals, creating the tantalising prospect of Nordic and North American “derbies”. In the first quarter final at the Shayba Arena, Henrik Lundqvist posted a shutout, while Loui Eriksson scored twice as Sweden continued their unbeaten streak at Sochi 2014, defeating Slovenia 5-0.
“This was a game we had to win,” said the Swedish goalie. “We didn't expect to go easy and it didn't, until the end. Up until then, it was a big fight out there.”
In the second quarter-final, Finland defeated 3-1 the host team at a packed Bolshoi Ice Palace. Teemu Selänne and Juhamatti Aaltonen cancelled out an early opener from Ilya Kovalchuk to give the Finns a 2-1 lead going into the second period. Try as they might the Russians could not find a way back.
Mikael Granlund, who scored Finland’s third goal, felt that his team were worthy winners. “They had the first goal, but we bounced back really well, and throughout the game we defended well and didn't give them much. We made it tough on them,” he said.
The semi-final line-up was completed in the evening, as Canada played surprise package Latvia at the Bolshoi Ice Dome, while the Shayba Arena hosted the USA and the Czech Republic.
Latvia once again defied expectations, holding the defending champions for much of their game. Patrick Sharp gave the Canadians the lead after 10 minutes, but the Baltic underdogs quickly dispelled thoughts of a rout, equalising within two minutes through Lauris Darzins.
The score remained locked at 1-1 for much of the game, with Latvia’s goaltender repelling everything that came his way as Canada racked up 57 shots. With less than seven minutes left on the clock in the final period, the Latvian resistance was finally broken as Shay Weber netted the winner for Canada.
The USA made lighter work of the Czechs, but the match was still much more balanced than the 5-2 scoreline suggested, with a shot count of 25 to 23 in the Americans’ favour. James van Reimsdyk opened the scoring in the second minute, before a swift equaliser from Ales Hemsky. Dustin Brown and David Backesthen gave the USA a commanding 3-1 lead going into the second period, and when Zach Parise took advantage of a power play to extend the gap, the Czechs struggled to find a way back. Phil Kessel made it 5-1 early in the third period, before Hemsky doubled his personal tally to reduce the deficit with seven minutes left.
21 February: Semi-finals
In a rematch of the 2010 final, the Canadians played a tactically disciplined match, opening the scoring early in the second period through Jamie Benn before smothering out the attacks of the normally potent Americans, as goaltender Carey Price completed a 31-shot shutout. “We wanted to stay on them and control the play in their end,” said goalscorer Benn, who was only a late addition to the squad for Sochi 2014.
The Americans had been the most explosive attacking team in Sochi going into their semi-final, with 20 goals, but against the Canadians lacked their normal cutting edge. US defenceman Ryan Suterfelt his team had been too cautious. “We didn't show up to play. It's kind of frustrating. We were passive.”
The day’s first semi-final was a rematch of the Turin 2006 final, in which Sweden preserved their unbeaten Sochi streak at Finland’s expense. The Swedes came from behind to win 2-1, with Erik Karlsson's power play goal, late in the second period, proving decisive. “It's unbelievable,” said Swedish goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. “We really had to work hard this time. They're a very disciplined team.”
Finland were missing several key players including Saku Koivu and Aleksander Barkov, and not even Teemu Selänne, the all-time Olympic points record holder, could save them. “It was disappointing, obviously,” said Selänne. “We couldn't play our best game this tournament today.”
22 February: Bronze medal match
Teemu Selänne scored two goals as Finland overwhelmed USA 5-0 to claim the bronze medal. In doing so the 43-year-old forward increased his own Olympic record points total – achieved over five editions of the Games - to 43.
Selänne, playing in his last ever match on the Olympic stage, was delighted to secure the bronze, describing it as a fitting end to a wonderful adventure. “Twenty-six years ago I played my first national team game, and it's been a great journey so far… and this is a great ending,” said the veteran, who also became just the sixth player in history to win four medals at an Olympic hockey tournament.
The man they call “the Finnish Flash” claimed that his bronze in Sochi – this third medal of that colour on the Olympic stage - was even more special to him than the silver medal he won eight years earlier at Turin 2006. “I'd rather win bronze than lose for the silver,” he said. “It's the best feeling so far of my career with the national team.”
Selänne and Jussi Jokinen scored just 11 seconds apart in the second period for Finland who have now picked up five medals in the past six Winter Games. The 43-year-old scored on a backhand, while Jokinen netted with a first-time shot from the high slot as Finland set about avenging a 6-1 loss to the USA in the semi-finals at Vancouver 2010.
Selänne scored again halfway through the third period, this time from close range on a power play, after taking a neat pass from Mikael Granlund. Juuso Hietanen and Olli Maata scored Finland’s other goals in the third period to seal the win. After missing the semi-final victory over Sweden, Tuukka Rask was back in goal for Finland, and he stopped 27 shots, including two penalty shots from Patrick Kane, to complete his shut-out.
Zach Parise said that he and his US team-mates had been far too passive in their approach. “We had no jam in our play and no speed in our skates,” said the American.
23 February 2014: Gold medal match
Canada’s men brought the curtain down on the sporting action at Sochi 2014 by completing the defence of their title with an impressive 3-0 defeat of Sweden at the Bolshoi Ice Dome. It was a record ninth gold for the Canadians, who also became the first team to win back-to-back Olympic titles since the Soviet Union at Nagano 1988.
Sidney Crosby – who had scored a dramatic overtime winner in the final against USA at Vancouver 2010 – was on the scoresheet once again, chipping in with Canada’s second goal. Jonathan Toews and Chris Kunitz scored the other goals, while goaltender Carey Price posted his third shutout of the Games.
The Canadian captain had endured a relatively quiet tournament, but against Sweden he served up an eloquent reminder that he is the man for the big occasion. And at the end he could not conceal his pleasure. “It's a great feeling,” he said. “Look at Vancouver, and it was right down to the bitter end, an overtime nail-biter. “Since then, a lot of things have happened, so to be back here in the same situation with a lot of the same guys that were in Vancouver, it's pretty special.”
Centre Toews opened the scoring in the first period, with a cool first-time finish. Once Canada had established their grip on the match there was no way back for Sweden. The defending champions had the meanest defence in the tournament: well-organised, well-drilled, and even at 2-0 up, whenever Sweden tried to break they found a wall of red shirts in front of them. With less than five minutes left in the second period, Crosby – so often Canada’s talisman over the years – doubled his team’s lead.
Homing in on goal in a one-on-one with Swedish goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, the Canadian captain produced a faint that left his opponent bamboozled, before going round him and placing the puck into the back of the net. Winger Kunitz wrapped it up with a fine solo effort in the final period, as he skated through the Sweden defence before unleashing a thunderbolt which whizzed past Lundqvist.
At the end there were scenes of jubilant celebration on the ice and in the stands, where the vociferous Canadian fans made their presence felt with a mass of Maple-leaf flags. Crosby said that self-belief and team-work had been central to his side’s success in Sochi. “There were some question marks about our scoring,” said the Canadian captain. “I think we all believed in one another and the way we needed to play, and stuck with it, nobody changed anything. It says a lot about the group of guys here,” he added.
Meanwhile, Sweden’s goalie Lundqvist admitted that Canada had fully deserved their victory. “They were just better. I felt like they were a lot smarter with the puck. I felt like we gave them too many chances. We were leaving the puck in the wrong areas and they were quick to strike,” he said. “Especially in the second period, we had a really tough time to get going. Overall they were just better today.”