Finland stun star-studded Russia in Ice Hockey World Championship semifinal (VIDEO)
It was heartbreak for Russia as a star-studded team featuring NHL great Alexander Ovechkin suffered a narrow semifinal defeat to Finland in the Ice Hockey World Championship in Slovakia.
A goal from Finland captain Marko Anttila with 9:42 left in the third period was enough to separate the teams, as the Finns set up a gold medal meeting on Sunday with either Canada or the Czech Republic.
The encounter with Russia was a tense affair throughout, with Finnish goalie Kevin Lankinen finishing with 32 saves while his counterpart Andrei Vasilevski also made some stunning stops.
Russia had headed into the game with eight straight wins at the tournament and 40 goals, but despite a team containing Ovechkin and fellow NHL stars Evgeni Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk, among other big names, they failed to do enough at the Ondrej Nepela Arena to break down their stubborn opposition.
The damage was done by veteran Antilla, 33, when he fired a rebound through Vasilevski’s legs midway through the third period.
Finland, under head coach Jukka Jalonen, are aiming to win gold at the same location as they last tasted glory at the tournament in 2011.
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For reigning Olympic champions Russia, the wait continues for their first world title since 2014.
After the disappointment, head coach Ilya Vorobyov said he knew the first goal in the game would prove decisive.
“The game felt like it would be decided by the first goal,” he said, as quoted by the IIHF website.
“Unfortunately we didn’t score it. The only way to disrupt an opponent playing that kind of game is to score on them. We’ve told the guys to put it behind them and prepare for the [bronze-medal] game.”
Russia at least have the consolation of the bronze medal game against either longtime rivals Canada or the Czechs on Sunday.