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Jokinen relishing role as Oly grinder

Posted: 02/20/2014 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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SOCHI, Russia -- The gash was angry and bloody but the smile said it was all worth it.

Olli Jokinen looked like the beat up and well-worn veteran he is and his patter went from defiant to exuberant to frustrated and back to joyful. The moment was his and he was revelling in it. Blood, sweat but no tears after Team Finland's 3-1 upset win over Russia.

"This is an honour to play for the country. Moments like this you're never going to get back," said the 35-year-old, already an owner of bronze and silver Olympic medals. "As you get older you realize that chances like this don't happen often. It's a big thing for our country to be in the top four but we're not satisfied. We're not just happy to be part of the medal round. We need to energize ourselves and get ready for the next game."

The Finns next play Sweden, their greatest rivals. Sweden's coach, Par Marts, made two statements prior to the Finland-Russia game predicting a win for the home side. Jokinen was told of the slag following his victory.

"Good for him. We don't really care to be honest. Our goal in this tournament was to win the next game," said the Winnipeg Jets forward. "We stick to the game plan. Everybody is proud to put this jersey on. I don't know how many shots we blocked. If one guy gets beat, we have two or three other guys in the middle of the ice.

"Every time we go into tournaments like this we're disrespected. But the good thing for our country no matter what names are on the back, Finland's going to play the same way no matter who we have here. We could have 20 different guys here and the results would be the same. Finland's going to play Finland's way."

Finland's only loss in the tournament came in overtime in a preliminary round game against Canada. Jokinen said it was a lesson for his group that they must stick to what works for them as a group.

"We took a step back against Canada. We felt we didn't play the level we think we can play at. We let them control the game. We were scared to play with the puck," he said. "But this was a new day today. We had a good game and all four lines were going."

For Jokinen, the secret to Finn success is putting the team first and it gets drilled into his country's players from an early age.

"This is a team game and we've got to rely on the guy next to us," he said. "Maybe that's why there is only a few big stars, and a lot of us play third, fourth line in the NHL."

As much fun as Jokinen is having in the Olympics and is hoping to win a medal, he's also looking forward to getting back to his Jets.

"We have to keep this going," he said. "This is fun. At the same time, I'm trying to focus on what's happening here, but it's a very exciting time back in Winnipeg," he said. "We've been playing well there as a team. We've got something going there too."

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 20, 2014 D3

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