Date: February 21, 2018

Germans Shock Sweden to Advance to First Semifinal Appearance Since 1932

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By Steven Ellis – Eurohockey.com

Patrick Reimer was the hero for Germany, giving the team that was ranked ninth-place in the round-robin a shocking 4-3 victory against the top-ranked Swedish team to advance to the semifinals.

Germany had never previously beaten Sweden at a major men’s competition, having only recorded two wins against the boys in yellow in exhibition contests in 2013 and 2016. The victory put them in the final four for the first time since 1932, a major accomplishment for a team that had to play their way into the 2018 tournament in a qualification event back in 2016.

Unexpectedly, Germany found themselves up by two goals early in the contest in a shocking start for the Tre Kronor. At 13:48, a power-play blast by former NHL defenceman Christian Ehrhoff made it 1-0 after the big blueliner took a pass from Patrick Hager, beating Viktor Fasth to make it 1-0.

29 seconds later, the Germans shockingly opened up their lead further. This time, Marcel Noebels was the beneficiary of a loose puck in front of the net. Noebels, a former Philadelphia Flyers prospect, would grab his first Olympic goal after pouncing on the disk before either Swedish defender could turn around and scoop it away, with Noebels knocking it past Fasth to make it 2-0 Germany.

Sweden was unable to change the score at the 40-minute mark, putting them in desperation territory. It was becoming to look like shades of 2002 when Sweden lost to Belarus in the quarterfinals, a team Sweden should have had no issue rolling over. They had already beaten Germany earlier in this tournament, but with a 1-0 victory coming off of the first shot of the game, there wasn’t a lot of confidence that the Swedes could reverse the deficit.

But they still found a way to score twice. At 6:25, top NHL Draft prospect Rasmus Dahlin, who had seen just two shifts prior to Sweden’s goal, took a shot from the point that landed in front of Danny Aus den Birken. Anton Lander was there to scoop up the puck and beat the German goaltender, giving Sweden their first of the game.

Then, at 9:35, Patrick Hersley one-timed a pass from Linus Omark on the man advantage to put the Swedes back within one, just a minute after Dominik Kahun scored Germany’s third goal of the contest.

Germany was doing everything they could to hold on, but at 11:37, the Swedes tied it up for the first time in the game. Mikael Wikstrand would do the deed, sending a perfect wrist shot over Aus den Birken’s glove to make it 3-3, making an exciting game even closer late.

The game would require overtime, the second game to do so in the quarterfinals. Reimer came up huge when it mattered most, scoring shortly after the puck dropped to give Germany the shocking 4-3 victory and a spot in the semifinals on Friday against Team Canada.

Canada Loses Ben Scrivens But Still Shutout Finland to Advance to Semifinals

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By Steven Ellis – Eurohockey.com

Canada needed just one goal to secure their place in the Olympic semifinals, beating Finland by a score of 1-0 on Wednesday evening in South Korea.

While there weren’t a whole lot of big offensive opportunities in the first 40 minutes, Canada lost one of their most important players after a collision early in the second. Ben Scrivens would have to leave after Eric O’Dell pushed Veli-Matti Savinainen into his netminder, with Scrivens getting hit in the shoulder area. He would hang around for another play before getting taken out in favour of Kevin Poulin, who got a shutout in his lone start against South Korea to end the opening round of the tournament.

The goalie switch seemed to make Canada play a much stronger, aggressive game, especially when it came to their offence. After taking just four shots in the opening period, Canada controlled possession with an 18-9 advantage, yet neither team figured out how to put the puck past either goalie.

Canada finally found a way to break the deadlock a minute into the third period. O’Dell did a good job of winning the faceoff back to Maxime Noreau at the point, and almost immediately, the former Colorado Avalanche prospect blew a wicked slap shot over the blocker arm of Mikko Koskinen and in to make it 1-0 for the two-time defending Olympic champions. It was the only goal that Canada needed in the game, with Poulin putting on a perfect performance in relief to lead Canada to the victory and to help them advance to the semifinals.

With the win, Canada will play for a medal for the third straight Olympic tournament, having won the past two gold medals in Vancouver and Sochi. Finland will fail to win a medal for just the third time since 1988, winning two silvers and four bronze medals in that time span.

Finns edge OAR for bronze

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By Lucas Aykroyd IIHF.com

This represented a major bounce back after a disappointing fifth-place finish four years ago in Sochi. It was a joyful moment for coach Pasi Mustonen’s team, which came to Korea expecting to medal and came through in the end.

“Winning a medal was our goal coming into the Olympics, and we know on a good day we have a chance even against the U.S. or Canada,” said Finnish captain Jenni Hiirikoski. “But the U.S. was really good [to beat Finland] in the semi-final, so this was what we wanted to win today.”

The Finns also came third in the inaugural Nagano 1998 tournament and in Vancouver 2010.

Susanna Tapani set the pace with a goal and an assist. Her 2-0 marker, just 10 seconds into the second period, set a new Olympic record for the fastest goal from the start of a period. The old record of 19 seconds belonged to Slovakia’s Janka Culikova, who scored in the third period of a 5-2 loss to Switzerland on 17 February, 2010.

Petra Nieminen and Linda Valimaki also scored for Finland. Top Finnish netminder Noora Raty, who played every game, outduelled her counterpart Nadezhda Morozova. Shots were even at 22 apiece.

“This is awesome!” said Raty. “It’s one of the best days of my life. We’ve been waiting for this for four years, ever since Sochi. We beat Sweden in overtime in Vancouver, and that was a great feeling to beat your biggest rival. But we were underdogs in that game; we were favourites today, I think, so there was more pressure.”

“We played together, and we played as a team,” said Valimaki. “That’s the main reason we won. It’s an amazing feeling, and now we can celebrate the medal.”

Lyudmila Belyakova potted a goal and an assist for the OAR team and captain Olga Sosina had a single.

“In a way, the tournament was still successful for us, but if I had a medal around my neck I’d be a lot happier now,” said Sosina.

Indeed, it wasn’t all bad news for the red-and-white squad, which played better than in the 5-1 group stage loss to Finland. Fourth place marks the best Olympic finish ever for a Russian women’s team. Russia came fifth in Salt Lake City in 2002.

Finnish forward Riikka Valila is the last remaining active player from the 1998 Olympics, which she led in scoring. At 44, she continues to excel. Her top line with Tapani and Michelle Karvinen was dangerous throughout the game.

“After Sochi, everything was chaos, but then we started to build our team, both the players and the organization,” said Valila. “Our goal was to win a medal for the last four years. “

This was a tightly contested affair after both teams lost their semi-finals 5-0, Finland to the Americans and the OAR women to the Canadians.

Facing the tournament’s most-penalized team, the Finns drew first blood on their first power play. Minnamari Tuominen stepped in from the centre point to loft a backhand and Nieminen deftly tipped it in mid-air past the Russian netminder for her third goal of the Games at 2:23.

It was the second time Finland’s youngest player has opened the scoring in these playoffs. The 18-year-old Nieminen also did it in the 7-2 quarter-final win over Sweden.

“We had a lot of good scorers in the tournament, and we have a new generation coming, like Nieminen and the younger girls,” said Hiirikoski. “It’s nice to see them step up as well.”

The Russians had their chances as the period went on. Raty came out to block Belyakova on an OAR outnumbered rush. Later, Alevtina Shtaryova wristed one that hit Raty’s glove and then the post. In the last minute of the first, Ronja Savolainen capitalized on a Russian pratfall to go one-on-one with Morozova, but the puck drifted off her stick.

To start the middle frame, Finland got a two-goal lead thanks to its top line. Off the opening faceoff, Karvinen and Tapani executed a lovely give-and-go, and Tapani scored high to the stick side.

The Russians didn’t capitulate. At 2:40, Sosina one-timed Belyakova’s cross-ice pass over Raty’s glove to cut the deficit to 2-1. The Finns overcompensated with physicality and the OAR team hemmed them in with an extended power play, including a 5-on-3 for 0:39, but couldn’t tie it up.

Finland grabbed a 3-1 lead at 12:18. Venla Hovi went cross-ice to a streaking Valimaki and she cut to the net made a great backhand deke to beat Morozova.

With just over two minutes left in the second, Belyakova’s hip slammed into Raty’s head as she split the Finnish defence on a wild rush. The Finnish netminder was all right, but Belyakova headed off for goalie interference.

At 6:03 of the third, Belyakova executed the play she wanted when she got in for another solo rush and tucked a backhand home to make it 3-2 on a Russian power play.

“They played well, especially in the third,” said Hiirikoski. “They did everything to score but we just needed to move the puck and control the puck in their zone.”

With five minutes left in regulation, Finland’s Isa Rahunen took a bodychecking penalty on Anna Shokhina in the corner. It could have proved costly, but since Shokhina promptly bopped Hiirikoski with a high-stick, the Russian advantage was nullified.

Assiduous Finnish checking kept the OAR team from pulling Morozova until an icing call on Finland with nine seconds left. Off the faceoff, the Finns tied the puck up along the boards, and celebrated with gloves and sticks cast away when the horn sounded. Karvinen leapt into the taller Mira Jalosuo’s arms for a hug while the goalies exchanged chest bumps.

Shokhina was assessed a major and game misconduct for kicking at the end.

All game long, Russian supporters among the Kwandong Hockey Centre crowd of 3,217 fervently chanted their country’s name. However, while the OAR men’s team was busy demolishing Norway 6-1 in a quarter-final, the women weren’t able to defeat their own Nordic opponents. Russian women’s hockey still needs the right kind of support to hit the next level.

“We have a very good team, a very young team with a lot of potential,” said Sosina.

It was the first Olympic bronze battle between these two sides. At the Women’s Worlds, Russia beat Finland for third in the 2001, 2013, and 2016 bronze medal games. Finland returned the favor in 2011 and 2015.

Finland owns 12 Women’s World Championship bronze medals, more than any other nation. Despite losing 3-1 to the U.S. and 4-1 to Canada in the group stage prior to a 5-0 quarter-final loss to the Canadians, the Finns remain the team most capable of challenging North America’s hegemony. They will host the 2019 IIHF Women’s World Championship and hope to take that next step in front of their loyal fans.

“We want to be the best,” said Karvinen. “We’ve been trying to catch up with the U.S. and Canada. Some games we do, but we couldn’t in the semi-finals. But the future will change. We’re hungry and we have the support.”

Russia Cruises to Semi-Finals After Big Win Over Norway

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By Steven Ellis – Eurohockey.com

The first semi-final matchup for Friday has been confirmed after Russia defeated Norway by a score of 6-1 on Wednesday afternoon in PyeongChang, South Korea.

Russia was dominant from start to finish, taking a 19-2 shot advantage and a 3-0 lead into the first intermission alone. It all started when, at 8:54, former NHL top prospect Mikhail Grigorenko scored off of a lucky bounce, beating out a few Norweigan players before sending a wild wrist shot over Lars Haugen, giving the Russians the early 1-0 lead.

At 13:25, some great passing between Sergei Mozyakin and Pavel Datsyuk resulted in Russia’s second marker. This time, Nikita Gusev would score his first goal of the tournament on the power play after Mozyakin’s shot from far out went off the boards and right to Gusev. Gusev, property of the Vegas Golden Knights, scored from a tough angle, just squeaking it pats Haugen to make it 2-0.

Just before the end of the period, Russia scored again. This time, Slava Voynov made it 3-0 after some beautiful passes from Gusev and Kirill Kaprizov found its way to Voynov in the high slot. Voynov made no mistake with a perfectly-placed wrist shot to end the period and the night for Haugen, one of the top goaltenders of the tournament.

Norway was hoping to at least get one on the board, and that’s what they did at 7:21 in the second. Alexander Bonsaksen would make it 3-1 after his shot completely fooled Russian goalie Vasili Koshechkin, who was looking the wrong way on the shot.

But Russia quickly scored a pair of goals to make it 5-1. At 8:35 on the power play, an Ilya Kovalchuk feed to Sergei Kalinin in front resulted in Kalinin’s first goal of the tournament, only to have Nikita Nesterov score another power play goal at 13:06. Ivan Telegin would score one late in the third period to complete the game, giving the Russians the 6- victory on Wednesday evening.

Russia will turn their focus to the semi-finals on Friday, where they hope to secure their first championship game appearance since 1998 in Nagano, Japan. They’ll take on the Czech Republic at 16:40 local time, a rematch of the gold medal game 20 years ago.

Czechs Perfect in Shootouts After Win Against USA

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By Steven Ellis – Eurohockey.com

The first quarter-final game of the men’s Olympic hockey tournament in PyeongChang, South Korea required extra time to declare a victor, with Petr Koukal scoring the game-winning goal to give the Czech Republic the win and a spot in the semi-finals on Friday.

Perhaps the most dangerous duo at the 2018 Olympics included Ryan Donato and Troy Terry, who have managed to find each other in most American scoring chances. At 6:20, Terry waited out a defensive effort by the Czechs before finding Ryan Donato in front of the net. Donato would re-direct the puck past Pavel Francouz just in front of the net, giving USA the 1-0 lead early in the game.

But nine minutes later, the Czechs answered back. Two players with similar names, Jan Kovar and Jan Kolar, connected after Kovar won the puck in a faceoff back to the point. Kolar would crush a hard shot past Ryan Zapolski with a bomb blast from the point, tying the game up at one apiece.

The second period would see the teams trade goals again to make it 2-2. At 8:14, Thomas Kundratek picked up the puck at the blueline after a bit of a scramble in front with Martin Ruzicka giving it to his defenceman with a good shot. Kundratek took advantage of Zapolski not fully being in the right position in his crease, giving the Czechs their first lead.

But at 10:23, the Americans scored to knot the contest back up, this time thanks to a fourth-line forward. Former Atlanta Thrashers centreman Jim Slater would get one shorthanded after sending a nice shot past Francouz, scoring his first Olympic goal just months after considering retiring from the game for good.

For the first time in the playoff round, a shootout was required to see which team would advance and which team would go home early. Petr Koukal scored the lone goal in the shootout, winning the game and ending the tournament for the United States.

With the win, the Czech Republic will meet up with the winner of the 16:40 local time match between Russia and Norway in the semi-finals on Friday, also at 16:40. This is the first time the United States will not make the final four since 2006, while the Czechs are looking for their third Olympic medal after a gold medal in 1998 and a bronze in 2006.