GANGNEUNG, South Korea (Reuters) - Finland beat South Korea 5-2 on Tuesday to reach the men’s Olympic ice hockey quarter-finals as the hosts bowed out of the tournament after a spirited performance in their final game.
Finland opened a commanding lead near the game’s halfway point but the South Koreans battled back, closing to within a goal to give the Finns, ranked fourth in the world versus the hosts’ 21st, a genuine scare.
“I thought it was a great experience for everyone,” South Korean coach Jim Paek told reporters. “What a fantastic game, are you kidding me? That was a fantastic game.”
Finland went ahead on the powerplay five minutes into the first period, Petri Kontiola rifling the puck into the upper corner of the net.
They increased the lead to three on a second goal from Kontiola and another from Miro Heiskanen in the second period before the Koreans got into gear.
Brock Radunske, a Canadian who came to South Korea a decade ago, got his first Olympic goal when Mikko Koskinen coughed up a big rebound and he snuck it between the goaltender’s legs before Ahn Jin-Hui fired a hard wrist shot into the net.
The Finns regrouped midway through the third period when Juuso Hietanen forced the puck past a sprawling Matt Dalton less than 20 seconds into a man advantage.
The Koreans pulled their goaltender for an extra attacker with time expiring and Finland’s Sakari Manninen dribbled in an empty-net goal.
“It’s pretty bittersweet for us,” Radunske said. “I thought we deserved better, obviously going up against a pretty tough teams, but we gave the crowd something to cheer for tonight. They were on the edge of their seats. That second period was special for everybody.”
Finland face Canada in the quarter-finals on Wednesday while South Korea exited the tournament after four straight losses.
At the end of the game, the Korean team skated around the ice carrying South Korean flags to rousing applause from the home crowd. They formed a line in front of their bench and bowed to a visibly emotional Paek.
“I think I am getting too old, I think I’m getting too emotional all the time,” Paek said. “It was a long journey with these guys and the way they played and the way they acted they are true professionals, and I just can’t be prouder of these guys.”
Tuesday also marked the end of the Olympic road for the Korean unified women’s hockey team who lost 6-1 to Sweden.
Reporting by Dan Burns, editing by Ed Osmond