By: Duaa Rizvi
On Jan. 5, 2016, Kasperi Kapanen turned heads after scoring the golden goal for Finland in the 2016 World Junior Finals. Kapanen, who was a Toronto Maple Leafs prospect at the time, sent the puck past Russian goaltender Alexander Georgiev, earning Finald a spot at the top of the podium.
The goal was Kapanen’s second of the tournament but inarguably the most important one of the entire tournament. The Finns and Russia had gone head to head throughout the entire gold medal game but after spending almost the entire game trailing the Russians, the Finns stepped up. With an early third period goal from Patrik Laine and late goals from Sebastian Aho and captain, Mikko Rantanen respectively, Finland took the lead. After giving up a goal to Russia with 9.6 seconds left on the clock the game was sent into overtime.
The Rantanen goal had caused Russia’s best forward, Valdislav Kamenev, to get into a fight with the referee. As a result of fighting with a ref, Kamenev was giving misconduct and Russia went into overtime without their best forward. Only a minute and a half into the overtime, Kapanen circled around the net and tucked the puck into a wide open net after Georgiev had grossly misinterpreted Kapanen’s play.
It was then that Kapanen had won Finland their fourth World Juniors title. Hartwall Arena in the host city of Helsinki exploded as Finish fans could not believe what they had just witnessed. 4-3 Finland.
Kapanen wasn’t on the board too much during the tournament after finishing with two goals and three assists in seven games but that didn’t matter because he showed up in the final for the golden goal. Much like his grandfather Hannu Kapanen, who coached the1998 gold medal team, Kapanen became a hero in the eyes of Finnish hockey fans.
Following the World Junior Championships Kasperi Kapanen along with teammates, Miro Keskitalo and Vili Saarijärvi were featured on an official stamp released by the Finnish Post to commemorate what wasn’t short of a Finnish Heritage moment.
After that Kapanen went on to play a great season with the Toronto Marlies before being called up to the big leagues. He played for the Toronto Maple Leafs for nearly four years before being traded to Pittsburgh in September 2020.