Sudden-death Russia holds nerve to win gold in hockey
GANGNEUNG – Agence France-Presse
Russia dramatically ended a 26-year men’s hockey title drought on Feb. 25, defeating Germany 4-3 in over-time in a championship-game thriller for the only gold medal by Russian men at the Pyeongchang Games.
Kirill Kaprizov scored the power-play goal that will be forever remembered in Russian hockey history 9:40 into the extra period to set off a joyous celebration as the Russian squad raced onto the ice and flag-waving supporters roared with delight.
Russia -- competing in South Korea under a neutral flag as “Olympic Athletes from Russia” -- had not won hockey gold since the 1992 Albertville crown.
Then they were the Unified Team, only a few weeks after the breakup of the Soviet Union, whose hockey dynasty captured eight Olympic golds.
This year’s Russians were unable to see their flag raised or hear their anthem played as part of the punishment for the systemic doping scandal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, competing under the Olympic flag and anthem as the OAR.
Denied even their usual uniforms, the Russians opted for one resembling the NHL Detroit Red Wings, who boasted championship teams known for Russian stars.
The Germans were seconds from pulling off a Wunder auf Eis (Miracle on Ice) upset after winning three one-goal shockers to reach the final.
Finally they settle for silver but also their best-ever Olympic finish, surpassing bronzes in 1932 and as West Germany in 1976.
The Russian lineup became only the second champion to have opened its Olympic campaign with a round-robin loss after Canada in 2002.
NHL players were absent for the first Olympics since 1994 because the NHL decided not to shut down its season, so the final saw a German league all-star squad face a team comprised mainly of top players from Russia’s two best clubs, SKA St. Petersburg and CSKA Moscow.