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Rivals To Meet In World Championship Semifinals

Canada, Finland, Russia and Sweden advance to the final four

by Ryan Boulding & Ron Knabenbauer / ColoradoAvalanche.com
FINLAND (2) VS. UNITED STATES (0)

Mikko Rantanen opened the game's scoring and No. 4-seed Finland shutout No. 1 United States 2-0 on Thursday to advance to the semifinals of the 2017 IIHF World Championship.

Rantanen's third goal of the tournament came 1:01 into the second period, and it held as the decisive tally in the quarterfinals at LANXESS Arena in Cologne, Germany. Finland will face rival Sweden on Saturday with a berth to the gold-medal game on the line.

The Colorado Avalanche forward scored on his second rebound attempt after Veli-Matti Savinainen's outside shot caromed right to him in the front of the net. Rantanen is second on the squad in scoring at the Worlds with eight points, one behind Sebastian Aho of the Carolina Hurricanes.

Joonas Kemppainen added an insurance tally for the Finns at 6:49 of the third period, after finishing a two-on-one rush with Juhamatti Aaltonen.

U.S. goaltender Jimmy Howard, who plays for the Detroit Red Wings, finished with 18 saves on 20 shots but was bettered on the other side of the ice by his Finnish counterpart. Finn keeper Harri Sateri stopped all 26 pucks he faced, improving his tournament goals-against average to 1.81 and save percentage to .921.

Watch: Highlights

Despite being the defending silver medalists, Finland had trouble finding consistency through round-robin play. The team was just able to sneak into the playoffs with a 2-2-1-2 mark and 11 points, one more than co-host France.

In an attempt to get his team going, head coach Lauri Marjamaki mixed up his line combinations prior to the game versus Team USA, including breaking up the all-NHL trio of Rantanen, Aho and Valtteri Filppula (Philadelphia Flyers) that had been together for most of the first seven outings.

Rantanen and the veteran Filppula stayed together but were joined by Savinainen, and the change seemed to generate a little more offense as the new line combined for six shots. Rantanen had two of them while playing 18:54.

The 19-year-old had just completed his rookie season in the NHL was facing off against another NHL freshman in Avalanche teammate J.T. Compher in the IIHF's final eight matchups.

Compher had one shot in 6:40 of ice time while on the USA's fourth line with Andrew Copp (Winnipeg Jets) and Christian Dvorak (Arizona Coyotes). This was Compher's second straight World Championship, and he finished the competition with two goals and a plus-4 rating in eight games.

Finland was the much more disciplined team of the two on Thursday, taking only two penalties in the contest compared to the United States' six. The Americans were called for three infractions in the third period while they were trying to stage a comeback.

The United States' tournament ends after one of its most successful preliminary rounds in the nation's history. USA won its final six contests after dropping the opener to co-host Germany, tying a team record for consecutive wins at the tournament, and won Group A with a 6-0-0-1 record and 18 points.

 

SWEDEN (3) VS. SWITZERLAND (1)

Scandinavian rivals Sweden and Finland haven't met in a World Championship in nearly four years. They'll get their chance on Saturday with a trip to the final on the line.

Sweden defeated Switzerland 3-1 on Thursday at AccorHotels Arena in Paris, France, in a Worlds quarterfinal and will now face the rival Finns in the semis.

It will be the first meeting between the two countries at the World Championship since 2013 when Sweden won 3-0 in the semifinals en route to winning the championship on home soil.

William Nylander of the Toronto Maple Leafs broke a 1-1 tie against the Swiss with a breakaway goal 3:15 into the second period, giving the Swedes the edge they needed. Sweden is now 6-0 all time against Switzerland in elimination games since the current playoff format was introduced.

Watch: Highlights

Team Sweden's Nicklas Backstrom (Washington Capitals) began the scoring 4:15 into the contest and Alexander Edler (Vancouver Canucks) ended it at 3:44 of the third period.

Gaetan Haas tallied the equalizer with 7:07 left in the opening frame, but that was the only shot that got by goalie Henrik Lundqvist (New York Rangers), who made 26 saves.

Gabriel Landeskog finished tied with a team-high four shots while playing 16:19 on a line with the Carolina Hurricanes' Elias Lindholm and Victor Rask.

Carl Soderberg saw 6:04 of ice time but did not play in the third period. He began the game with Dennis Everberg and William Karlsson.

 

CANADA (2) vs. GERMANY (1)

Team Canada secured a spot in the semifinal round of 2017 IIHF World Championship with a 2-1 victory over co-host Germany at LANXESS Arena in Cologne on Thursday.

Although the Germans put up a noble fight, the loss removed the squad from contention.

Canada outshot its opponent 50-20, including 15-7 in the first period and 20-1 in the middle frame, but it was still a closely-contested match until the end.

The top-ranked squad from Group B, the Canadians opened the scoring 17:11 into the game when Mark Scheifele (Winnipeg Jets) capitalized on a man-advantage situation to take a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.

Team Canada made it 2-0 in the middle frame when Jeff Skinner (Carolina Hurricanes) tucked a rebound through German goaltender Philipp Grubauer (Washington Capitals) and into the net.

Watch: Highlights

Unwilling to go down without a fight, Germany gave the 16,653 fans in the building something to cheer about in the final stanza when Yannic Seidenberg beat Colorado Avalanche keeper Calvin Pickard for a short-handed tally with 6:39 remaining in the game.

The Germans were unable to tie the contest, however, and fell 2-1.

The Canadians will face rival Russia in the semifinals on Saturday.

Pickard made 19 saves en route to his fourth win of the tournament. Pickard had been in a rotation with Chad Johnson (Calgary Flames) throughout the preliminary round of the event.

Avs forward Nathan MacKinnon finished the win with five shots on net in 15:43 of ice time while skating alongside Scheifele and Skinner. MacKinnon is tied for third in the Worlds in scoring with 12 points (five goals, seven assists). Matt Duchene concluded the match with one shot in 15:18 of game action.

 

RUSSIA (3) vs. CZECH REPUBLIC (0)

Team Russia continued to dominate the field at the 2017 Worlds on Thursday when it knocked the Czech Republic from the playoffs with a 3-0 victory at AccorHotels Arena in Paris, France.

Russian netminder Andrei Vasilevski (Tampa Bay Lightning) was perfect between the pipes, turning aside 27 shots for his third shutout in his last four starts.

Watch: Highlights 

With the backend handled, the rest of the squad went out and got it done at the other end of the rink. Dmitri Orlov (Capitals) scored 8:45 into the match, and Nikita Kucherov (Lightning) converted a power-play opportunity to make it 2-0 before the first 20 minutes of play had concluded. 

Neither team was able to capitalize in the middle stanza, and Russia sealed the win when Artemi Panarin (Chicago Blackhawks) scored the final marker 13:55 into the third period. 

The Russians now face rival Canada in the semifinals on Saturday.

Avalanche prospect Andrei Mironov did not play in the victory.

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