BEIJING: Finland powered into the final of the Beijing Olympics men's ice hockey for the first time in 16 years on Friday with a 2-0 win over Slovakia.

The number two-ranked team in the world will play for gold on Sunday against the victor of the day's later semi-final between defending champions Russia and Sweden.

Finland's Sakari Manninen slid one under sprawling goalie Patrik Rybar in the first period and the Finns held on against a dangerous Slovakian squad, adding an open-net goal in the final minute.

Slovakia's charge was led again by 17-year-old phenom Juraj Slafkovksy, the tournament's joint top goal-scorer and a leading NHL prospect, who made a nuisance of himself in front of goal once more.

The Finns are perennial contenders, having medalled in three of the last four Games, including silver in 2006.

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They were seen as a favourite for gold in Beijing after hockey powers Canada and the United States were weakened by the NHL's decision to keep its star players home due to the pandemic.

Both teams were eliminated in the quarterfinals.

Finland have several veterans from their 2019 world championship team and are cohesive, with much of the squad teammates from pro clubs in the top leagues of Russia and Finland.


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