From eight teams down to four, with the round robin format of the World Cup of Hockey completed, we now know who will be in the running when the semi-finals get underway on Saturday night.
Last night, Russia had the chance to knock out North America with a win in any fashion over Finland while in the later game, the Czechs and Americans had nothing but pride to play for with both of them already out of the competition.
First on the bill was the Russians and the Finns, Finland were already out of the running but Russia were behind North America after they beat Sweden on Wednesday night, after the Russians beat the kids of North America in their round robin match up, all they needed was a win in any fashion to advance through to the next round.
Both teams couldn’t find the back of the net in the opening frame, firing six shots each but Sergei Bobrovsky and Tuukka Rask both held strong, keeping it scoreless at the end of 20 minutes, but early in the second it all changed.
With just over three minutes played in the middle frame, Alex Ovechkin picked up the puck in the slot, deking past his defenseman before finding Vladimir Tarasenko completely open at the back door to tap the puck past Rask to give the Russians an important one goal lead.
Just a couple of minutes later, the Russians were at it again. This time the goal came from some relentless forcechecking, when they eventually got the puck it found the stick of Ivan Telegin who rounded Rask and slid the puck into the net for a 2 – 0 lead.
In the third period, an unusual play set up the Russians third goal. Rasmus Ristolainen ran into a linesman, allowing Alexei Emelin to pick up the puck, play it up ice to Evgeni Malkin who went in and took the shot himself, firing it shortside on Rask who gave up a goal that he’d love to have another crack at saving.
Time wound down for the Finns who were held at zero by Bobrovsky who posted a shutout and with the two points, it jumped them ahead of North America and into the semi-finals where they will face off against Canada.
The final matchup of the round robin format saw USA and the Czech Republic play for pride and to avoid finishing bottom of Group A.
Both sides lit the lamp once each in the opening frame, Zybnek Michalek fired a bomb from the point, through a screen and past Ben Bishop to give the Czech’s the lead in the 12th minute, but two minutes later the US responded on the powerplay as captain Joe Pavelski who finished off a nice passing play to tie the game up going into the second period.
Early in the second period, the Czech’s took the lead again, the first shot was stopped by Bishop but ultimately tapped in on a clearing attempt by Ryan Suter to make it a 2 – 1 game. USA came back quickly, Dustin Byfuglien crossed the line before finding Justin Abdelkader on the other side of the zone who had nothing but net to shoot at and converted on his shot to tie it up at two.
Before the period was out the Czech’s bit back. Just two minutes after the game was tied they were back on the board as Andrej Sustr fired from a narrow angle, beating an unsuspecting Bishop for a 3 – 2 lead, and then it was Milan Michalek finished off a rush by the Czech’s to give them a 4 – 2 lead going into the final 20 minutes of play.
Just one goal in the final frame coming from Ryan McDonaugh made it a 4 – 3 game as the Americans struggled to solve Petr Mrazek who stopped 12 of 13 shots in the final frame, holding onto the win and meaning the US exited the tournament winless and bottom of Group A.
With the group stage done, teams get today off before going back to the ice on Saturday and Sunday. First up Canada take on Russia on Saturday night before Sweden take on Europe on Sunday with a spot in the best-of-three finals up for grabs.