World Championships Semi Finals

Sunday, 21st May 2006

Olympic runners up Finland take on defending World Champions Czech Republic in the first semi final this afternoon.  Finland, without Nr 1 goalie Nyttimaki , have an able replacement in Norrena. The Czechs have stuttered through the championships but are in the semis on merit after a great win against Russia. I fancy the Czechs to just sneak it and send Finland to the bronze medal game


The game got off to a slow start with both teams playing about in the neutral zone. First chance of the game fell to Luoma of Finland who hit the side netting. Two open net chances followed and then Hnilicka made a great save from Peltonen. Finland were on top and at 8:03 took the lead. Riku Hahl shot from just outside the blueline and the puck spun off Hnilicka’s glove and into the net. Nummelin, almost certain to be in the all star team, got his 11th point of the championships with an assist. Finland then tried a number of long range shots in an attempt to further unsettle Hnilicka but he stood strong and saved 12 of the 13 shots fired at him in the first period. End of the first and Finland deservedly 1-0 up.

Finland almost doubled their lead after 25 mins as Bergenheim took a pass from Ruutu and shot directly into the body of the Czech goalie. Finland were still working Hnilicka hard but he was up to anything that came at him. At 8:23 and on a Finnish powerplay, the Czechs equalised.
Plekanec picked up the puck just outside hisown end and went off on a solo skate. He got round Luoma and raced down the right and cut inside past Nummelin and roofed a screamer high over Norrena’ flailing glove hand. 1-1 and totally against the run of play. Just after 35 minutes, Luoma gave the puck up on another Finnish powerplay but Norrena blocked a crisp, low backhand from Stefan. The Czechs then rattled the crossbar and finished the period on the powerplay as Hentunen went to the box on a checking from behind call. The period ended 1-1 and although the Czechs were again massively outshot, 15-8, are still in this game.

The third period became the battle of the goalies, and it was Norrena who was the busiest as the Czech’s showed why they are champions. Less than a minute gone in the 3rd and Norrena made a brilliant glove save from Erat and then pokechecked Hlavac, who was all alone in front of the goal and seemed certain to score. Hnilicka had tobe alert as he gloved a superb wrister fromRuutu and then padded Peltonens quick shot from the right. End to end stuff for most of the period as both teams went for the winner. The Czechs scored what proved to be the winning goal on 56:17.
Luomo was sent to the box on a slashing call to put the teams 4 on 4. When the Czechs returned to full strength Kaberle let a wrister go from the blue line and Vyborny got the tip on the puck to send it past Norrena.
2-1 Czech Republic with less than 4 mins left. Finland pulled Norrena for the last 56 seconds but could not find a way past the defence. There was still time for the first bout of fisticuffs in the tournament. After a bit of a stramash in front of the Czech goal, frustration got the better of Oli Jokinen and he had a couple of pops at Tomas Kaberle, who responded by dropping the gloves and trading punches. After a drawn bout they were separated and both picked up roughing majors and game misconducts.  End of the game and the Czechs march on to the final with a 2-1 win. Once again Finland fall short at the semi stages and failed to make their first World Final since 2001.


This game has the potential to be the best game of the competition. Previous games between the sides have been exciting and full of attacking play. Canada have the BBC line of Boyes, Bergeron and Crosby. They have been electric all competition, scoring a huge total of 35 points between them. Add to that, Jeff Carter’s contribution of 2 short handed goals. The Swedes will have to be at their best to keep them quiet.
Tre Krone are not short in offence themselves with Zetterberg and Samuelson having great tournaments. This game could go all the way to the wire .

Sweden started much stronger than Canada and took the lead on 1:27 when Kronwall rocketed a shot past Denis, who was screened by the Canadian defence. 4:11 and it was 2-0. A powerplay goal by Jonsson who picked off a Stuart clearance and shot past Denis before he could react. Canada got a goal back against the run of play when Richards passed into the zone to Calder, all alone in front of Holmqvist and went backhand until Holmqvist committed and lifted the puck into the net. 2-1 and a seriously outplayed Canada were backing the game. The scoring continued and at 11:52 Sweden regained their 2 goal advantage. Martensson sent in a shot from the face off circle to the left of the goalie. Denis managed to get his blocker on the puck but the rebound bounced off the inrushing defender Stuart’s skate and into the net. Stuart was having a ‘mare . One more goal in the period and it went to Canada on 16:38. On the powerplay, the puck was bobbling about in the crease and Comrie reacted first to score with the goalie scrambling for his stick. End of the 1st and a goalfest at 3-2 to Sweden.

Sweden went two goals in front for the third time on 41:33. Nylander cycled the puck from the corner and passed to left point and Per Halberg shot on goal. Denis had it covered but a brilliant tip by Samuelsson left him floundering as the puck raced past him. 42:41 and Sweden were on easy street at 5-2. Nordquist took the puck after a scramble in the crease with the Canadian defence all over the place, and lifted the puck high into the unguarded net. That was it for Marc Denis and Alex Auld replaced him immediately after the goal. The next 8 or 9 minutes saw both goalies bring off good saves, especially Auld from Zetterberg. 10 minutes left in the period and the Swedes looked completelyin control with Canada rarely testing the Swedish defence. That changed in the last 35 seconds of the period when Crosby found himself free on the left and poked the puck through Auld’s pads to make it 5-3. For some strange reason Mika Hanula skated in and viciously crosschecked the scorer in the face. With Crosby prone on the ice. Calder came in and punched Hanula, Calder then had a bit of a do with Kronwall and Daley also punched Hanula. Crosby left the ice looking a bit groggy but skating on his own steam.
When the dust settled Hanula deservedly got 5 plus game, Kronwall and Calder received 2 plus 2 for roughing and Daley 2 mins for roughing.
End of the period and 5-3 to Sweden. Canada, outplayed again in the period but still in the match.

Into the third and Canada had the impetus and a 3 minute powerplay. Canada layed siege to the Swedish net on the powerplay and with 48 seconds left on the man advantage scored to cut the lead to one goal. It was the BBC line again that came up trumps. Crosby showed some lovely stick handling behind the net and found Bergeron free out front and the latter blasted a one timer high past Holmqvist. 43:38 gone and it’s a 5-4 game. Canada pressed for most of the next 12 minutes and were crashing the net with impunity. The momentum was lost when Bergeron went for high sticks and Sweden slowed the game down. The last five minutes saw a classic high trap by Sweden and fired the puck deep in the Canadian zone at every opportunity. Canada pulled Auld with a minute left but could not find a way to get past Holmqvist.  End of the game and Sweden progress to the final beating Canada 5-4.

A brilliant game of hockey that had everything. Great offence, dodgy goaltending, poor defensive play, over fussy refereeing and a Canada team that would not lie down and die. Sweden deserved the win but Canada can hold their heads high.
Ok, 2 games to go.  Tomorrow afternoon and we have Finland v Canada for the bronze medal and early evening sees the climax of the competition with the gold medal game between Olympic champions Sweden and current World champions Czech Republic. Sweden are trying to be the first team to hold both titles in the same year and the Czech Republic desperately want to defend their world title.

Until tomorrow,