PARDUBICE – Finland will compete for its first IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship gold medal in eleven years after defeating Sweden 4-2 in the semi-finals to extend its 2014 unbeaten streak to five games. Joining the Finns will be 2013 bronze medallists Canada, who defeated the United States in a shootout in the second semi-final.
Finland – Sweden 4-2 (0-0, 1-0, 2-0, 1-2) Postgame
“We have a group of guys that are a really tight group,” said Finnish team captain Jesse Saarinen. “Everybody plays the system and wants to play the system and wants to play for the team, and I think that’s a good combination.”
Up 1-0 after two periods, Finland pushed the lead to 3-0, the first goal coming when Janne Laakkonen got into the Swedish zone and made a cross-ice pass to Saarinen, who beat Swedish goaltender Andreas Ollikainen with a perfectly-placed shot to the far side to the goal. Less than a minute later, Laakkonen and Ossi Pellinen found themselves alone in front of the Swedish net following a rush, Laakkonen making the quick pass to Pellinen, who slotted the puck home.
Then in the fourth Markus Jokinen got his second goal of the game, beating Ollikainen with a backhand shot to put a 4-0 stranglehold on the Swedes. Sweden cut the lead to 4-1 with a nice goal from Marcus Nilsson, who got off a difficult backhand shot that bounced up off the goaltender, allowing him to bat in the rebound from the air.
Then Finnish goaltender Sasu Hovi was called for delay of game after knocking the net off its moorings. On the power play Robin Sjoren cut the lead to 4-2 with a shot from the high slot. Finland had the chance to close out the Swedes when Petri Partanen was brought down by defenceman Johan Lilja on a breakaway, leading to a penalty shot that sailed just wide off the backhand. Sweden called a timeout following the missed attempt and tried to rally, but couldn’t get any more past Hovi as time ran out and the Finns booked their ticket to the gold medal game.
“It was a long time ago, of course I have some experience that I’ll share with the guys and we’ll see what happens,” said head coach Timo Nurmberg, who played on the 2003 gold medal winning Finnish team, the last team to win gold in inline for the country.
The game started out slowly as neither team was willing to risk giving up an odd-man rush to the other. The Finns had the lion’s share of the offensive pressure but did produce enough quality scoring chances to challenge Ollikainen.
But the Finns finally broke through in the second period. With his team playing short-handed, Markus Jokinen streaked into the Swedish zone down the right boards, bouncing the puck off the board and skating past the Swedish defender, regaining possession of the puck and putting it through Ollikainen’s legs for the game’s first goal.
At the other end, Sasu Hovi stopped 17 shots in the first half, including two solid back to back saves to keep Sweden scoreless, first stopping forward Carl Berglund on a breakaway then stoning Berglund and Andreas Svensson immediately after during a two-on-one rush.
“I knew before the tournament started that we had a good defensive team, and that really helps take the pressure off the goaltender obviously,” said Hovi. “I knew we would do a good job on defence but I didn’t see our scoring potential until a few games in, so now we’re stronger than I expected us to be.”
Finland moves on to the gold medal game, the first time the team has made it this far since 2007. They will face Team Canada, returning to the gold medal game after winning it all in the 2012 tournament. In the preliminary round game between the two teams, Finland outscored Canada 3-1 en route to a 5-3 victory.
USA – Canada 5-6 SO (2-2, 1-1, 1-1, 1-0, 0-0,0-1) Postgame
In what was a classic battle between two of the world’s top inline hockey teams, Canada won its second consecutive shootout victory, defeating the United States 6-5 and joining Finland in the 2014 IIHF Inline Hockey World Championship gold medal game.
“I’ll be happier tomorrow when we win the gold, that’s what we came here for,” said Thomas Woods, who was selected as both the Player of the Game for Canada and the team’s top player for the tournament. “I’m happy to win those individual accomplishments but in the end it’s about the team, we still got one more goal here and we look forward to playing tomorrow.”
The top-seeded United States, last year’s gold medallists, came into the fourth quarter down 5-4. But the Americans tied things with just over ten minutes to go, on a power-play goal scored by Travis Noe.
In sudden-death overtime, U.S. forward Junior Cadiz looked to have the game won with an open chance in front of the net, but shot low allowing the Canadian goalie to get his paddle down and make a huge save to keep his team alive and push the game to a shootout.
Thomas Woods was the first to shoot, scoring with a forehand deke. Tournament leading scorer Matt White’s luck dried up after he shot the puck wide to the left of the Canadian net. Then captain Chris Terry scored with a wrist shot for the Canadians, putting the pressure on Noe who scored with a forehand shot into the roof of the net.
Kuhn III managed to make the key stop on the next Canadian shooter, putting the game onto the shoulders of Patrick Lee, who could not beat Leggat, sending the Canadians to the gold medal game.
“I wouldn’t say I wasn’t worried, but it felt awfully familiar given that the last (shootout) came less than 24 hours ago,” said Leggat.
“We’re disappointed obviously,” said American head coach Joe Cook. “They out-chanced us and buried the puck when they needed to.”
One of the keys to the victory was the attacking strategy the Canadians employed, something the powerful American team hadn’t seen much of in earlier games at the tournament.
“It was something we talked about today during video, if you look at the path they took through the tournament they hadn’t really played a team that jumped at them,” said Canada head coach Jason Stephens. “Everybody kind of laid back and let the Americans come at them, and we said that tonight we can’t do that, that we had to make them stick to a pace that we set.”
“The American team’s an unreal talent, and to be able to dictate the pace at times and put the pressure on them a little bit we could see the cracks starting to form.”
The game was fast-paced right from the beginning as the teams played up-tempo and traded goals back and forth through the first half. The two North American rivals got things going early, battling to a 3-3 tie in the opening period.
Canada got on the board first on the power play when Kyle Sheen slipped in front of the net behind the two American defenders and Thomas Woods found him with a pass for the opening goal.
But the Americans responded minutes later with a power-play marker of their own, coming off a well-placed shot from tournament top scorer Matt White in the right circle that bounced off the far post and into the net. Defenceman Peter Kavaya added a score, his first of the tournament giving the Americans the 2-1 lead.
The Canadians tied things up when Chris Terry threw the puck on net and Woods outmuscled the USA defender to tip in into the net.
On a second period power-play, Junior Cadiz made a cross ice pass through to Tyler Spezia, who fired it into the top right corner to regain the one-goal lead.
Canada’s Josh Foote tied things up with a nice backhand finish on a rush created by linemate Kirk French, knotting things up 3-3 going into halftime.
The teams came out of halftime tied 3-3, Canada regained the lead for the first time since the opening minutes of the game as captain Chris Terry beat USA goaltender Jerry Kuhn III with a slapshot through the five-hole.
But as with every lead in the game so far it was short-lived, as Patrick Lee deflected the puck into the net to tie things up once more 4-4.
But the Canadians responded quickly as French made a backhand pass from the left boards to an open Brennan Luscombe coming down the middle of the ice putting Canada up 5-4 going into the final period, leading ultimately to the country’s second straight shootout triumph.
Canada will now face Finland, a win would give the country its third ever gold medal in Inline hockey history.
Slovakia – Germany 4-5 SO (0-1, 0-2, 3-0, 1-1, 0-0, 0-1) Postgame
Fabio Carciola scored the game-winning shootout goal and potted another as Germany survived a scare from Slovakia and avoided the relegation game.
The Germans built up a 3-0 lead through two periods, as Patrick Seifer, Yannik Baier, and Fabio Carciola found the back of the net.
But the Slovaks roared back in the third period, scoring three goals in less than two minutes. First It was Roman Simunek, who lit the lap early in the period, followed up by Juraj Prokop less than thirty seconds later. Andrej Mrazik got his second assist of the period as Jakub Ruckay, the team’s leading scorer, tied the game up 3-3.
Germany’s Adriano Carciola, Fabio’s brother, put his team back up by a goal in the fourth quarter,but with three minutes to go Peter Novajovsky equalized for the Slovaks, sending the game into overtime.
The loss means Slovakia will face Great Britain to decide which country will be relegated to Division I.
Czech Republic – Great Britain 6-1 (1-0, 3-0, 1-0, 1-1) Postgame
Great Britain will play against Slovakia in the relegation game after losing to the Czech Republic 6-1 in the placement round on Friday.
Michal Simo had four points (1G+3A), Patrik Sebek had a goal and two helpers, and Martin Vozdecky scored a goal and an assist bringing his personal total to 11 points in five games. Simo finished with a team-high 13 points.