USA and Canada to play for gold

Bronze medal spot remains open for either Sweden or Russia


It will be a familiar sight when Canada and the U.S. face-off for World Women's gold on Sunday HHoF/IIHF Images

Kazakhstan – Russia 2-9 (1-3, 0-2, 1-3)
HAMEENLINNA, Finland – Russia kept its hopes for skating in the World Women’s bronze medal game alive after defeating Kazakhstan, 9-2, in playoff round action. The winner of tomorrow’s Sweden-Russia game will skate for bronze.
Russia climbed out to a strong 3-0 lead in the first 11:20 of the game. Ekaterina Smolentseva scored the first goal just 3:56 into action and then set up the 2-0 tally that came about five minutes later. Inna Dyubanok scored the 3-0 goal to give the Russians some breathing space.
Kazakhstan netted its only goal with 4:08 left in the period when Lyubov Ibramigova put in the Kazakhs’ first-ever playoff round goal at the World Women’s Championship. While the goal was a nice moment for the Kazakhs, it made little difference in the outcome of the game as Russia was simply the stronger, and better rested, team.
Smolentseva was one of two Russian scorers in the second period as her team built the lead to 5-1 by the end of the stanza. Russia dominated Kazakhstan in the period, but once again goaltender Darya Obydennova kept the score respectable, making 36 saves in the first 40 minutes and 63 in total.
Russia added a trio of goals in the third period, while Kazakhstan captain Natalya Yakovchuk also found the back of the net. Despite the goals, it was a low-energy period as both teams looked worn out by the final buzzer. Ekaterina Ananina, Iya Gavrilova and Tatiana Burina scored the Russian goals in the period.
Russia switched out goaltender Irina Gashennikova for Nadezva Alexandrova with 13 minutes left, but she faced very little pressure from the Kazakhs in her brief appearance.
The loss ended Kazakhstan’s championship as they go home with a 1-0-3 record and an all-time high sixth-play finish, beating 2005’s seventh-place finish in Sweden when the championship had eight teams. Meanwhile, Russia will take on Sweden tomorrow for the berth in the bronze medal game. The Russians have only skated in the bronze game once previously, in 2001, when they beat the Finns for the medal. Switzerland – Japan 3-2 (0-0, 2-1, 1-1)
HAMEENLINNA, Finland – Mission accomplished: Switzerland earned its spot in the next World Women’s Championship with a 3-2 win against Japan. The victory gives Switzerland first place in the relegation round group and ensures the Alpine nation a spot in the 2011 World Women’s.
Switzerland had to dig deep to beat Japan, a team that was just promoted two years ago. Japan proved to be a feisty and persistent opponent that the Swiss couldn’t shake until late in the third period when Laura Ruhnke scored the 3-2 go-ahead goal. In all, this year’s World Championship is one that the Swiss would like to forget after a lackluster preliminary round and two razor thin wins in the relegation round.
Switzerland struggled in the scoreless first period, getting out-shot 15-6. The Swiss improved dramatically in the second period and got the momentum on their side when Laura Benz opened the scoring 2:03 into the period. But just over four minutes later, Japan got the equalizer when Nachi Fujimoto put her team on the board. Swiss Captain Kathrin Lehmann restored the 2-1 lead with a key power-play goal that came just 23 seconds before the intermission.
Chiaki Yamanaka gave the Swiss some tense moments when she tied the game at two at the 51:22 mark, but three minutes later Ruhnke had the answer with the eventual game-winner. The 3-2 goal stood through a dramatic final two minutes that saw a Swiss penalty and Japan pulling goaltender Azusa Nakaoku in favor of the extra skater.
Swiss head coach Rene Kammerer had a tough choice to make for his starting goaltender after regular starter Florence Schelling was shelled in her outing yesterday against China and replaced by back-up Dominique Slongo. Slongo got the call in today’s game and did well, giving up 37 goals on 39 shots. 
The win gives Switzerland a seventh-place finish at this year’s championship, the lowest finish in the women’s top division since they were relegated in 2004 with an eighth-place finish. Japan will return to Division I in 2011 regardless of tomorrow’s outcome against China after a two-year stay among the elite nations.
China is the second relegated team from this year’s World Women’s. It will be the first time since the Chinese Women’s program started that the nation will not be among the elite nations. NOTE: There is no Women's World Championship in Olympic years. Finland – United States 0-7 (0-2, 0-3, 0-2)
HAMEENLINNA, Finland – It will be the USA and Canada in the World Women’s gold medal game for the 12th consecutive time after the Americans earned their spot in the golden game with a 7-0 win against host Finland. The U.S. and Canada will play tomorrow to determine first place in the playoff group, but regardless of the outcome, both teams’ place are secure in the golden game on Sunday.
Natalie Darwitz and Hilary Knight each had a hat trick and Julie Chu finished with three assists in the win as the Americans weren't flashy, but played a strong 60 minutes of hockey.
Finland put up a valiant effort against the Americans, but was eventually worn down by the persistent attack. The Finns held the U.S: scoreless for nearly 10 minutes until Knight slammed in a loose puck in front of the crease. Gigi Marvin had a nice backhanded move on a shorthanded goal five minutes later to make it 2-0 at the intermission.
Darwitz scored twice in the second period, while Knight added her second goal to give the U.S. a 5-0 lead at the end of 40 minutes. Darwitz's first goal was a wrist shot midway through the period and she followed with a five-on-three goal four minutes later to solidify the American lead.
Darwitz completed her hat trick with just over eight minutes left in the game and Knight put in her third goal four minutes later to bring the final to 7-0. The goals came after the Americans killed off four straight third-period penalties.
Jessie Vetter posted the shutout for the Americans with 16 stops, while hometown prodigy Maija Hassinen had the start for the Finns, making 25 saves.
Canada and the U.S. have played for the gold medal every year at the World Women’s Championship. Canada has won all but two titles, missing the gold in 2005 and last year.
Finland has some consolation from today’s loss; the host nation will skate in the bronze medal game against the winner of the Sweden-Russia game. The Finns have skated in every bronze medal game in Women’s World Championship history and have made the podium in eight of 11 appearances. JENNY WIEDEKE
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