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Finnished! Russian Hockey Team Bounced Out Of Olympics

"Uskotko ihmeisiin?"

No, this isn't exactly a "do you believe in miracles?" bit of history for Finland, but its men's hockey team just produced a moment-to-remember at the Sochi Games.

Finland beat Russia 3-1, bouncing the home team out of the tournament.

As NPR's Robert Smith has reported, there was tremendous pressure on Alex Ovechkin and his Russian teammates to win gold in Sochi.

Score! Finland's Juhamatti Aaltonen (right) celebrates after scoring Wednesday during his team's victory over Russia.
Larry W. Smith / EPA/Landov
Score! Finland's Juhamatti Aaltonen (right) celebrates after scoring Wednesday during his team's victory over Russia.

Ovechkin, who plays for the NHL's Washington Capitals, has been "the single biggest thing in Sochi," Robert noted. "His face is on every Coca-Cola billboard and ad — and you know Coca-Cola doesn't skimp on the ad budget."

And listening to Ovechkin last week, Robert added, "you can tell how much Team Russia is animated by history. They talk constantly of the 1980 Miracle on Ice upset, when they were beaten by Team USA. And their loss four years ago in Vancouver. 'When we lost to the Canadians,' Ovechkin said, 'it was a big blow to us. It was a big failure. It was a big blow to everyone in Russia.' "

But Wednesday, Team Finland responded after falling behind 1-0. The Finns fought back to lead by two goals at the end of the second period and then defended "for their lives" the rest of the way, as The Guardian says.

Russia had been among the favorites to win a medal. Finland now goes on to face another of the top teams, Sweden.

Team USA, another club that's been among the medal favorites, plays later today against the Czech Republic.

Canada, always a medal contender, plays Latvia today.

Update at 7 p.m. ET: USA and Canada Advance

With victories today, the U.S. and Canadian teams set up a semifinals meeting. That game will happen Friday. The bronze match is Saturday; the gold is on Sunday, the final day of the Sochi Olympics.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.