Finns, Russians to Meet in the 2014 IIHF World Championships Finals

2014 IIHF World Championships has had tremendous semifinals today, on 24 May 2014: Russia defeated Sweden, the current champions, and Finland struggled hard and got victorious out of the game against the Czechs. The two winning teams will meet in the gold medals game tomorrow, on Sunday, whereas the other two teams will play for the bronze.

Both semifinals boasted great intrigue and intensive battling of the teams from second 1 to second 3600. A real treat for a hockey fan!

In the first semifinals match, Sweden vs. Russia, the first goal was scored barely had the match begun – just 19 seconds into the game. The Mickael Backlund – Joakim Lindstrom – Oscar Moller combination brought the puck into the Russian goal through Bobrovski’s five hole. A good beginning for the Tre Kronor, but nothing which Team Russia would not be able to deal with.

Sergei Plotnikov was there for the rebound from the shot made by his teammate Yevgeni Medvedev – and Anders Nilsson was too low on his knees and just helpless against Plotnikov’s shot on goal. Thus, the game was tied with one goal for each team at 13:25. Sergei Shirokov brought Russia into the lead two minutes before the end of the first period due to his excellent individual effort.

In the second period Russians scored on more rebound goal. This time it was defenseman Anton Belov, who has driven the puck into the Tre Kronor’s net after a rebound secured by Danis Zaripov. The third period of this semifinal game saw no goals, instead there were unpleasantries, both on and off the ice. Sergei Plotnikov and Michael Backlund engaged physically, which resulted in Oleg Znarok, Russia’s head coach, conversing with Sweden’s assistant coach Rikard Gronborg. The emotions ran high and Znarok’s gesture with his arm near the throat may lead to a penalty against the Russian Hockey Federation:

Still, the Russians have secured a place in the finals and are to be considered favorites in the game. They have played evenly throughout the tournament and have not lost a single game.

Finland, the team that kept stumbling in the preliminaries, is the second participant of this year championships’ final game. If Russia is the team enjoying most chances of winning, then Finland is the team losing not a single chance of winning. This has been so in the game against Canada in the quarterfinals (3:2) and then against the Czechs (3:0) in the semifinals. Finland is a mature team with players being mentally ready to face and win any game with any opponent. That is how Erkka Westerlund, the Finnish head coach, described the chemistry and psychology of his guys in the game against Team Canada: “We managed to score at the start of the third period [while losing 2:1]. After that the team stayed very united,” adding that “During the break, the players took the game into their own hands. They decided how to play. That’s always a good sign.”

That was exactly the manner in which the Finns were playing against the Czechs – holding the game firmly in their own hands. Jori Lehteraa’s goal in the ninth minute of the game and that of Jarkko Immonen in the twelfth showed who dominated the ice in the game. The second period saw no goals scored. The game intensified in the third period with Dominik Jagr doing his best both as a player and as the Czech team’s leader. Notwithstanding all their efforts Jagr and his teammates failed to score a single goal in the third period, even when head coach Vladimir Ruzicka replaced the goalie. The Finns, instead, added another goal by Lehteraa – 3:0.

Lehteraa scores against the Czech Republic
Lehteraa scores in the 2014 IIHF World semifinals against the Czech Republic (KHL)

Tomorrow the gold will definitely go to a country with access to Baltic Sea, be it Russia or Finland. The game and the teams will decide who deserves it more. One thing can be said for sure about the game: both Finland and Russia will want the gold badly.

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