The IIHF World Hockey Championship semifinals are all set to go on Saturday, May 25th with top seed Russia taking on fourth-seed Finland and second seed Canada meeting third-seed Czech Republic
The Russians went through with a 4-3 win over the USA in the quarterfinals while Canada sneaked past Switzerland 2-1 in overtime. The Czech Republic dominated Germany 5-1 and Finland edged Sweden 5-4 in overtime.
Russia 4-3 USA
Russia met the Americans in Bratislava and edged them 4-3 for their eighth straight win in eight outings at the tournament. The Russians have a chance to take home their fifth medal in the past six years if they manage to beat on Saturday. However, while that sounds like a pretty good haul they haven’t captured a gold since winning the event in 2014 at home in Minsk. Wherever they finish from here on in will be an improvement over last year though when they were downed 5-4 by Canada in the quarterfinals to place sixth. For the Americans, it means their gold medal drought at this tournament goes on as they haven’t won it since way back in 1933. On the bright side, they won bronze last year as well as in 2013 and 2015.
Nikita Gusev, who led the KHL in scoring this season with 82 points, gave the Russians the lead after just 67 seconds and Mikhail Sergyachov doubled the score at the 15:47 mark of the first period with a power-play goal. The Americans cut the deficit at 2:22 of the second stanza when Brady Skjei scored and it was 2-1 entering the third period. Kirill Kaprizov made it 3-1 after 91 seconds of the final stanza but Noah Hanifin cut it to 3-2 just over four minutes later. Mikhail Grigorenko then restored Russia’s two-goal lead just over a minute later though. The USA pulled goaltender Cory Schneider late in the game and Alex DeBrincat Kane made it interesting when he scored with 2:50 to go.
However, Russia hung on for the victory. The Americans played without the injured Derek Ryan and Dylan Larkin while Jack Hughes was inserted into the lineup sitting out in their 3-0 defeat to Canada as a healthy scratch in the last round-robin game. The 18-year-old Hughes, who is projected to go first overall in next month’s NHL Draft, ended the tournament with three assists in seven contests. He finished on a high note though with a pair of assists in this outing against Russia and he was also named his team’s player of the game. Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy was the Russian player of the game even though his squad outshot the Americans 43-32.
Canada 3-2 Switzerland
Switzerland’s confidence should have been sky high entering this game since they were 3-2 winners over Canada in their last two meetings, including last year’s semifinal. They took the lead in this game when Sven Andrighetto beat goaltender Matt Murray with a power-play marker at 18:06 of the opening period. It was relatively short lived though as Mark Stone tied things up at the 5:45 mark of the second frame. The Swiss regained the lead late in the period when Nico Hischier scored with a man advantage with 3.8 seconds on the clock.
Switzerland made the fatal mistake of trying to hang onto their lead in the third period instead of attempting to increase it. Goaltender Leonardo Genoni bailed them out numerous times but they eventually paid dearly for their tactic. Canada pulled Murray for an extra attacker and Damon Severson’s shot from the points just managed to trickle over the goal line with 0.4 seconds left in regulation time. Stone then scored the game winner with his second of the game and seventh of the event at 5:07 of sudden-death, three-on-three overtime.
Canada outshot the Swiss 42-24 over 65 minutes and are now 7-1 in the tournament after losing their opener to Finland. They beat Switzerland without the services of forward Anthony Mantha as he was hit with a game suspension for an illegal hit to the head of America’s Colin White in the final game of the preliminary round. Mantha was the team’s top scorer heading into the game against Switzerland. The Canadians finished fourth last year after being beaten by the USA in the bronze medal contest and now have a chance to improve on that against on Saturday.
Czech Republic 5-1 Germany
This game looked like it was going to be a close, low-scoring affair as it was still 0-0 after 33 minutes minutes, but the Czechs then pulled away. They opened the scoring at the 13:21 mark of the second period when Jan Kovar netted a goal past netminder Phillip Grubauer the end of a nice solo effort. Germany pulled even with 2:14 left in the period when Frederik Tiffels neat Czech goaltender Patrik Bartosak. Jakub Voracek gave the Czechs a 2-1 lead at 4:19 of the third stanza and Dominik Simon made it 3-1 seven minutes later.
Ondrej Palat basically put the game out of reach by making it 4-1 with fewer than seven minutes left on the clock. Kovar then put the icing on the cake with his second goal into an empty net at 19:51 after Grubauer had been pulled in favor of an extra attacker. The Czech’s outshot Germany 34-22 with each team taking six minutes in penalties. Voracek’s goal gave him 16 points in the tournament to put him in a second place tie with Nikita Kucherov of Russia in the the individual scoring race. William Nylander of Sweden leads the way with 18 points, which ranks number one overall for a Swedish player..
Finland 5-4 Sweden
Finland and Sweden renewed their heated rivalry with this game going to overtime before it was decided. Sweden, with the roster full of NHL players, entered the game hoping to win the tournament for the third straight year, but it wasn’t in the cards. The Swedish squad has no problem handling the tournament’s weaker sisters in Group B, but slid down the seedings by losing 5-2 to the Czech Republic and 7-4 to Russia in the preliminary round. Finland also took a step backwards by losing 4-2 to Germany when they had a chance to top Group A.
Finland jumped into the lead at the one minute mark of the game through Niko Mikkola. However, Sweden equalized just over a minute later when John Klingberg notched a power-play marker at 2:38. Patric Hornqvist put Sweden back in front at 16:57 of the first frame and Elias Pettersson made it 3-1 just 25 seconds into the middle period. However, the game was level 3-3 nine minutes later thanks to goals by Petteri Lindbohm and Jani Hakanpaa.
Sweden went in front once again with 25 to go in the second period courtesy of Erik Gustafsson. It looked like they may hang on but Finland pulled goaltender Kevin Lankinen with less than two minutes to play and Marko Anttila tied the game 4-4 with 1:29 remaining in regulation time. The extra session didn’t last long as Sakari Manninen sent a shot over the shoulder of Swedish netminder Henrik Lundqvist just 97 seconds after the puck was dropped. Finland outshot Sweden 32-18 in the game while Sweden had the only two power-plays