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Finland heads to first-ever finals on home ice

The Finnish men's ice hockey team plays its third consecutive final against Canada on Sunday evening.

The Finnish men's team heads to its first final on home ice on Sunday. Image: Tomi Hänninen

After beating the United States 4-3 on Saturday, the Finnish national men's ice hockey team will face Canada in the IIHF World Championship Finals in Tampere's Nokia Arena on Sunday.

This will mark the first time that the Finnish Lions have played in an ice hockey final, Olympic or IIHF, in Finland. Finland has previously hosted the IIHF World Championships seven times and twice in conjunction with Sweden.

The Finns survived a scare late in the game when the Americans pulled their goalie in the last three minutes and fired in a goal, putting the game within one score.

Persevering against this last minute American push, the Lions secured victory on home ice in Tampere, ensuring a trip to the finals on that same ice the following day.

Jukka Jalonen, the Finnish head coach, admitted that the game did not start as he would have liked after an early US goal.

"One minute of play and the Americans had already made the score 0-1. It is not easy to come back from that. But we got an important goal at the end of that period. These games are also played between the ears. The pressures and stakes are high; this isn't a kids' game," Jalonen said after the game.

Jalonen coached the Finnish men's national team to victory in the 2019 IIHF finals in Slovakia and to Olympic gold earlier this year in Beijing. Finland made it to the finals last year, but lost to Canada. Including the Olympics and taking into account the gap with Covid, this is the country's fourth finals appearance in a row.

Dallas Stars defenceman Miro Heiskanen was named the player of the game and scored a goal late in the first period to tie it up and recorded two assists later on. Joel Armia knocked in what ended up being the game-winning goal.

Finland will play Canada, which crushed Czechia, 6-1,in Saturday evening's semifinal.

"We know the building is going to be rocking and the Finns are playing for gold at home. But we need to try to have a strong start and not let [Finland] build momentum from their fans," ," Canadian forward Dylan Cozens told public broadcaster CBC.

The final begins at 8:20 pm Finnish time.