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Nordic and North American neighbours set up semi-final dates in men’s ice hockey

19/02/2014

Sweden, Finland, Canada and USA will contest the semi-finals of the men’s ice hockey tournament at Sochi 2014, throwing up the tantalising prospect of Nordic and North American “derbies”.

In the first quarter final at the Shayba Arena, Henrik Lundqvist posted a shutout, while Loui Eriksson scored twice as Sweden continued their unbeaten streak at Sochi 2014, defeating Slovenia 5-0.

The impressive Lundqvist, who has been the busiest goaltender in the tournament, has conceded just five goals in four games for Sweden who are trying to erase memories of their quarter-final loss four years ago in Vancouver.

Lundqvist, the only goaltender to play every minute of every game, made 19 saves against the Slovenes. He has been a major factor in Sweden’s perfect 4-0 record in the tournament thus far, after a 4-2 victory against the Czech Republic, a 1-0 shut-out against Switzerland and a 5-3 triumph against Latvia during the group stage.

"This was a game we had to win,” said the Swedish goalie. “We didn't expect to go easy and it didn't, until the end. Up until then, it was a big fight out there.”

Finland shock the hosts

In the second quarter-final, Finland defeated 3-1 the host team at a packed Bolshoi Ice Palace. Teemu Selanne and Juhamatti Aaltonen cancelled out an early opener from Ilya Kovalchuk to give the Finns a 2-1 lead going into the second period. Try as they might the Russians could not find a way back.

Mikael Granlund, who scored Finland’s third goal to seal the victory, felt that his team were worthy winners.

“They had the first goal, but we bounced back really well, and throughout the game we defended well and didn't give them much. We made it tough on them,” he said.

"We stick together, we play together. We know what we're doing, and we defend each other and that's how we can succeed and will succeed. I think we deserved to win."

Finland will now face Sweden in the semi-finals on 21 February.

Latvians make Canada sweat

The semi-final line-up was completed in the evening, as Canada played surprise package Latvia at the Bolshoi Ice Dome, while the Shayba Arena hosted the USA and the Czech Republic.

Latvia once again defied expectations, holding the defending champions for much of their game. Patrick Sharp gave the Canadians the lead after 10 minutes, but the Baltic underdogs quickly dispelled thoughts of a rout, equalising within two minutes through Lauris Darzins.

The score remained locked at 1-1 for much of the game, with Latvia’s goaltender repelling everything that came his way as Canada racked up a total of 57 shots.

The previously unthinkable prospect of overtime appeared to be beckoning, but then, with less than seven minutes left on the clock in the final period, the Latvian resistance was finally broken as Shay Weber netted the winner for Canada.

USA hit five past Czechs

The USA made lighter work of their quarter-final against the Czechs, but the match was still much more balance than the 5-2 scoreline suggested, with a shot count of 25 to 23 in the Americans’ favour.

James van Reimsdyk opened the scoring in the second minute, before a swift equaliser from Ales Hemsky. Dustin Brown and David Backes then gave the USA a commanding 3-1 lead going into the second period, and when Zach Parise took advantage of a power play to extend the gap, the Czechs struggled to find a way back.

Phil Kessel, the USA’s hat-trick hero against Slovenia, again got himself on the scoresheet, making it 5-1 early in the third period, before Hemsky doubled his personal tally to reduce the deficit with seven minutes left.

The USA will now face Canada on 21 February for the right to contest the final.

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