Canada - Finland 1 - 2 (1 - 1, 0 - 0, 0 - 1) Game Sheet INNSBRUCK – A power play goal in the third period and some resolute defending gave Finland the 2-1 semi-final win against Canada. Otto Nieminen had a goal and assisted on Eeto Sopanen’s game-winner as the Finns head on to a clash with Russia for the gold.
“Great win for us in a very close game,” said Nieminen. “Our defence played better than in the other games and we were able to get pucks on the net.”
Penalty trouble cost the Canadians in the third period. After the Finns survived a pair of penalties at the start of the frame, Canada’s Reid Duke was called for a slashing penalty on Finland goaltender Kaapo Kahkonen. He was joined in the penalty box twenty seconds later by Ryan Pilon, who went in for a holding call.
Canada was able to kill of the initial 5-on-3, but with 30 seconds left in Pilon’s penalty, Nieminen found defenceman Eetu Sopanen with a pass in the high slot and Sopanen beat Canadian goaltender Keven Bouchard between the legs for the go-ahead goal.
“It’s disappointing for us because we know we didn’t leave it all out there,” said Team Canada captain Joseph Hicketts. “We took the second period off for a while there and in the third period we didn’t capitalize on those early power play chances.”
Both team played cautiously through the first two periods, each eager to avoid making a mistake or committing a crucial turnover. Canada opened the scoring in the first period with a goal from Josh Carrick, who got the puck near the left circle thanks to a good passing play from Reid Gardiner and Eric Cornel and shot it under Kahkonen's arm.
With 3:31 left in the period and following a scramble for the puck in front of the Canadian goal, the puck came out to Finland’s Otto Nieminen waiting near the boards to the left of the goal. Nieminen turned and fired from the top of the circle, beating Canada's goaltender Keven Bouchard to tie the game up at one apiece.
Following Sopanen’s goal, Canada had a golden opportunity to tie the game when the puck sat in the crease after Kahkonen gave up a rebound and couldn’t locate it. But Finland’s Kasperi Kapanen dove over his goaltender and got his blade in front of a Canadian stick to stop the puck going in.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” said Kapanen. “Hard to believe but we played really hard and I think we deserved it.”
Finland now gets a rematch against top-ranked Russia, with gold going to the winner. The Finns were the only team to beat Russia in the preliminary round, coming back from a 2-0 deficit to win 4-3.
“We need to hit a lot and get shots on their goalie,” said Nieminen. “Just play exactly the way we played in the last game against them.”
Canada will play against the US in the bronze medal game on Saturday afternoon.
Click here for a video with post-game comments.
Russia – United States 5 - 2 (1 - 0, 1 - 0, 3 – 2) Game Sheet
INNSBRUCK – Russia held off a late rally by the U.S. to win the Youth Olympic Games men’s semi-final 5-2. Ilia Zinovev scored the game winner in the third period, propelling his team into the gold medal game.
“Very good game, very tough, our team played perfect,” said Russian captain Ivan Nikolishin. “The only thing we want to have is some rest now, and I hope that our top game will be the final game.”
Going into the final period up 2-0, Russia scored a pair of goals in quick succession, putting the Americans in a deep hole. But U.S. forward Joe Wegerth was finally able to break the goal drought for his team, walking in from the left of the Russian net and firing a high shot into the top left corner. Then Jack Glover got his team and the crowd back into the game, finding teammate Jack Eichel with a pass in front of the net to close the Russian lead to 4-2.
But the Americans could not pull out any more magic, and with the goalkeeper pulled at 2:28 remaining in the game Russian goaltender Sergey Korobov shut the door on the US the rest of the way, while his teammate Evgeny Svechikov added an empty net goal in the final minute.
As in their early preliminary game against the Russians, a penalty in the opening seconds hamstrung the Americans early on. A tripping call on Nick Schmaltz 54 seconds into the game led to a power play goal from defenceman Egor Orlov. Orlov fired a blast from the top right circle following two quick passes from Alexander Protapovich and Eduard Nasybullin. Goaltender Logan Halladay, subbing in for injured starter Edwin Minney (concussion) could not get across the crease fast enough to stop the shot, giving the 1-0 lead to Russia.
The U.S. won the crowd over in the second period with some gritty play and numerous quality scoring chances. However, the team could not solve Korobov, who finished with 30 saves on 32 shots. With 1:59 left in the period, Ivan Nikolishin appeared to kick the puck into the net with his back heel, but the referee ruled it incidental contact and awarded the goal to the Russians, a deflating call for the Americans.
“We definitely came out today with a lot more pride and a lot more effort,” said U.S. forward Jared Fiegl. “A few unlucky bounces, the second goal went off the player's skates, it was so close and we were only one goal away at the time.”
Team USA will have a shot at the bronze medal tomorrow against the loser of tonight’s Canada-Finland match. The winner of that game will play against Russia for the gold medal on Sunday.
(Nathan can be reached at email@example.com)