Finland defeats Slovakia to reach men's hockey gold-medal game in Beijing

Slovakia's Juraj Slafkovsky (20) chases Finland's Valtteri Filppula (51) during a men's semifinal hockey game at the 2022 Winter Olympics. (Matt Slocum/AP)

For just the third time, Finland is on its way to the men's Olympic hockey gold-medal game -- with a chance to finally top the podium in its sights.

Finland defeated Slovakia 2-0 on Friday in Beijing, courtesy of a first-period goal from Sakari Manninen and an insurance empty-netter from Harri Pesonen with under a minute left.

The country's best result in the tournament is a silver medal, which it has earned twice. The first time came in 1998 in a losing effort to a Soviet Union team featuring Vyacheslav Fetisov and Igor Larionov. The next time was in 2006, when Mats Sundin, Nicklas Lidstrom, Daniel Alfredsson and the Swedes defeated Teemu Selanne and the Finns in Turin.

For the Beijing final, Finland will face one of those familiar foes and bordering countries in Sweden or the Russians, who play in the second semifinal on Friday at 8:10 a.m. ET.

Finland is undefeated so far in the tournament, boasting a team with former NHLers Sami Vatanen, Valtteri Filppula and Leo Komarov, among others. In 2018, the country fell to Canada in the quarterfinals.

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