It’s that time of year where the hockey world comes together to cheer on their nations team in the World Juniors. With the 2021 tournament being put in jeopardy with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, let's look back to 2014, a time where 19-year-old Rasmus Ristolainen became a hero in the gold medal game between Finland and Sweden.
The game started off with a shocking 1-0 lead for team Finland only 28 seconds into the first period, when Finish defenceman Esa Lindell found a loose puck and fired a hard shot right past Swedish goaltender Oskar Dansk. For the rest of the first period, Sweden made it a point to showcase their defence and speed. To no luck, the first period ended with Finland’s lead over Sweden.
Midway through the second period, Sweden was able to tie the game on a powerplay. Now with a 1-1 tie, Finland forward Saku Maenalanen was quick to come back and score a second goal for Finland within a minute of the Swedes.
Sweden’s offense only became stronger going into the third, whereas Finland kept finding themselves in penalty trouble. Defenceman Christian Djoo used this to his advantage, scoring Sweden their second goal of the game with a powerful slap shot. Neither team was able to seal the deal and win the gold medal within the final period of the game, so into overtime they went.
It was there that Ristolainen showcased his talent in his third World Juniors. In a 4-on-4 play, Ristolainen and teammates made a couple of failed rushes towards the Sweden zone. On the third try, he was able to make a fantastic sweeping move around Swedish defenceman Robert Hagg, scoring the winning goal with a backhanded shot.
The Finnish bench erupted into loud cheers as sticks, helmets and gloves all went flying. The team rushed Ristolainen on the ice, as their opponent faced defeat for the second year in a row, only this time it was on home ice.
Thanks to the 19-year-old defenseman, this was Finland’s first gold medal in 16 years, with their last being in 1998. Ristolainen was just recently drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2013 NHL Draft as the 8th overall pick.
Ristolainen has continued to play for the Buffalo Sabres his entire NHL career. To this day, his goal is remembered as one of the best to occur during an OT game in the World Juniors.