IIHF Worlds: Semifinals Round-Up
Kevin Lankinen managed to shut out the Russian stars (Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF PHOTOS)

Russia 0-1 Finland

Russia were coming into the match as heavy favorites for the gold, let alone just for this match. They managed to outlast a strong USA team, and had the biggest stars in their team, including names like Alexander Ovechkin, Nikita Kucherov, and Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Finland confirmed their status as the dark horse of the competition with their dramatic 5-4 overtime over rival Sweden. They are having a great run despite lacking their NHL stars, leading to the likes of Kaapo Kakko and Marko Anttila stepping up within their strongly organized system.

Finnish captain Marko Anttila had the first shot of the match, both teams starting with their fourth formations, his wrist shot was saved by Andrei Vasilevskiy. Russian superstar Alexander Ovechkin and Finnish defenceman Oliwer Kaski are the first players disciplined, taking minor penalties for roughing and holding the stick respectively. Another Russian star, Nikita Kucherov, took a hooking penalty during the 4-on-4, giving Finland a 4-on-3 powerplay.

Russia really put the pressure on towards the end of the period, forcing some incredible saves out of Kevin Lankinen. The period finished scoreless after a great showing by Lankinen and Vasilevskiy, Finland outshooting Russia 15 to 11.

Sergei Andronov took a slashing penalty at the start of the second period, allowing Finland to take charge of the game early in the second. Finland got a 3-on-2 situation that resulted in captain Anttila getting a clear shot, but his shot just barely grazed the top of Vasilevskiy’s right pad, enough to turn it away. The game was still scoreless after 40 minutes, Finland outshooting Russia 23 to 22.

After a sustained period of Russian pressure since the start of the period, Oliwer Kaski took a slashing penalty, his second penalty of the match, letting the Russians have their first powerplay of the game. Finland managed to kill off the penalty and keep the game scoreless, Lankinen pulling out two great saves. The powerplay was followed by two questionable non-calls by the officials going against Finland, much to the dismay of Finnish fans.

After 50 minutes, Finland took the lead! Captain Marko Anttila tucked in the rebound from a Henri Jokiharju slap shot between Vasilevskiy’s pads. Captain Anttila came up with a clutch goal for his team in the second game in the row. Russia pulled their goalie with two minutes left, Finland iced the puck shortly after and Russia took a timeout. Ovechkin set up Kucherov for a one-timer, a clutch save by Lankinen, and Finland held on. The plucky dark horse from Finland, without any of their NHL stars, defeated the overwhelming favorites from Russia and advanced to the final.

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Czech Republic 1-5 Canada

The Czech Republic were coming into this match with a lot of confidence, placing second in Group B and beating Germany 5-1. The Czechs had seemingly found a perfect blend of NHL stars and homegrown talent.

Canada have a pretty strong roster with the likes of Matt Murray, Jonathan Marchessault, and Mark Stone participating after early playoff exits. However, Canada would not be in the semifinals without a big pile of luck, as Damon Severson’s shot crossed the goal line with just 0.4 seconds left on the clock, taking their quarterfinal game against Switzerland to overtime.

Just a little over five minutes into the match, Mark Stone took the lead for Canada. Canada got a 3-on-2, and Stone deflected the centering pass of Troy Stetcher to beat Patrik Bartosak on his near post. However, Jonathan Marchessault took a slashing penalty shortly after, allowing the Czechs to get settled in the offensive zone. Both Czechs and Canadians played a physical game throughout the first period. Even though the Czech Republic outshot Canada 12 to 11, they didn’t produce a clear-cut chance.

10 seconds into the second period, Canada got a second goal to double their lead. Canada won the opening faceoff, Darnell Nurse picked up the puck, skated up, his shot saved by the pad of Bartosak, but the defenceman got the puck from his rebound and beat Bartosak with a wrap-around from behind the goal. Pierre-Luc Dubois got a third for Canada, one-timing a centering pass from Jonathan Marchessault. After letting in two goals early in the second period, Patrik Bartosak was pulled for the back-up Pavel Francouz, 25 minutes into the match.

The Czechs got two very good chances, both resulting in scrambles in the crease, but Matt Murray stays solid between the pipes. An amazing double save by Murray after shots by Zohorna and Repik in the final minute. Canada lead 3-0 after the second period, Matt Murray pulled out some great saves to keep a clean sheet.

Canada’s captain Kyle Turris made it 4-0 for Canada. Anthony Mantha skated the puck in past the level of the goal line, passed it back to Turris, whose one-timer beat Francouz. Canada was four up with thirteen minutes left. Mantha had a chance to score as well on the breakaway, but his shot was turned aside by Francouz’s right pad. With exactly seven minutes to go, Thomas Chabot, who was in the penalty box less than five minutes ago, scored Canada’s fifth goal. Chabot’s wrist shot killed the game off for the Czechs, as he easily skated through their defense. Just 59 seconds later, the Czech Republic pulled one back after fourth-liner Tomas Zohorna cut through the Canadian defense like a knife through butter and beat Matt Murray.

Michal Repik and Pierre-Luc Dubois got into a fight by the boards, earning matching minor roughing penalties. As the time got shorter, the Czech frustration came bubbling up, with Dmitrij Jaskin getting into a slashing duel with Jared McCann and then punching in the face. The second penalty was served by Jakub Vrana. The Canadian powerplay didn’t last long, as Chabot picked up a holding penalty to prevent a shorthanded breakaway. Canadians held on without any further hiccups, winning the match 5-1 in an emphatic fashion.