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TEAM USA TOPS FINLAND

by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings
BERN, Switzerland – The U.S. Men's National Team, behind 47 saves from Robert Esche (Utica, N.Y.), earned a hard-fought 3-2 victory over Finland here tonight in the quarterfinals of the 73rd annual International Ice Hockey Federation Men's World Championship.


Team USA advanced to the semifinals where it will face Russia on Friday (May 8) at 10:15 a.m. EDT. The game can be seen live on UniversalSports.com.

"We got unbelievable goaltending, especially in the first period when we needed it most," said Ron Wilson, head coach of Team USA. "We got stronger as the game wore on and I thought controlled most of the second half of the game."

It was a scoreless first period. Esche kept Finland, which had the only three power plays of the period, at bay by making 20 saves. Colin Wilson (Greenwich, Conn./Boston University) had the best chance for Team USA in the opening 20 minutes, but was stopped by Pekka Rinne as he tried to jam the puck home from just outside the crease.

The second period featured five goals and 32 total shots on goal between the two teams. Finland got off to a 1-0 lead just :57 into the period when Niko Kapanen chipped in a rebound on the power play from the side of the net. The U.S. scored three times in less than four minutes early in the second half of the stanza. Dustin Brown (Ithaca, N.Y./L.A. Kings) capped off a tic-tac-toe passing play on the power play with Ryan Suter (Madison, Wis./Nashville Predators/University of Wisconsin) and Ron Hainsey (Bolton, Conn./Atlanta Thrashers/University of Massachusetts Lowell) at 10:31 to even the game. A Jack Johnson (Indianapolis, Ind./L.A. Kings/University of Michigan) hit caused a Finland turnover in the U.S. zone and a subsequent rush up the ice was finished on a blast by T.J. Oshie (Warroad, Minn./St. Louis Blues/University of North Dakota) at 12:11. David Backes (Minneapolis, Minn./St. Louis Blues/Minnesota State University) and Kyle Okposo (St. Paul, Minn./N.Y. Islanders/University of Minnesota) drew assists on the play. Suter then backhanded one home from the left side of the net as the U.S. capitalized on another odd-man rush at 14:19. Finland scored what turned out to be the final goal of the game at 17:50 when Topi Jaakola's shot from the point caromed off Esche's mask in front where Hannes Hyvonen scored off the rebound.

The third period was scoreless, with the U.S. having the best chances. Esche made 12 saves in the period, including a key glove stop at the side of the net on Niklas Hagman with just more than 10 minutes left. Backes had a chance to give the U.S. a two-goal lead with three minutes remaining but was stopped on a breakaway.

Esche was named the U.S. Player of the Game.

NOTES: The U.S. advanced to the semifinals of the IIHF World Championship for the first time since 2004 .. Team USA will practice tomorrow (May 7) at 11:15 a.m. local time ... The U.S. and Finland have met in the quarterfinals each of the last three years. Finland won the quarterfinal game last year by a 3-2 count in overtime and prevailed in a shootout by the same score in 2007 ... The victory ended a seven-game winless streak against Finland ... Ron Wilson is the head coach of Team USA for the third time in the World Championship. In each year (1994, 1996, 2009) under Wilson, the U.S. has advanced to the semifinals ... The IIHF Men's World Championship includes 16 nations, initially divided into four, four-team pools. In the preliminary round, each team plays the other three teams in its pool. The top three teams in each pool advance to the qualification round. The qualification round consists of two groups of six teams each. A team advancing to the qualification round plays three additional games against the teams it has not yet faced that are part of its new pool. The top four teams in each of the two pools from the qualification round qualification round advance to the single-elimination quarterfinal round, with the winners playing in the semifinals. The two semifinal winners play for the gold medal while the losers play for the bronze medal ... Universal Sports will provide both live streaming and television coverage of all quarterfinal, semifinal and medal games of the 2009 IIHF Men's World Championship ... Click here for the Team USA roster ... Click here to download the Team USA media guide ... The 2009 U.S. Men’s National Team is under the direction of Brian Burke, general manager; David Poile, associate general manager; and Jim Johannson, assistant executive director for hockey operations at USA Hockey. The U.S. Men's National Advisory Group, which includes Burke, Paul Holmgren (Philadelphia), Johannson, Dean Lombardi (L.A. Kings), Ray Shero (Pittsburgh) and Don Waddell (Atlanta), is charged with leading the selection of players for the U.S. Men's National Team. Tony Rossi, vice president of USA Hockey and its international council chair, oversees all aspects of international competition for USA Hockey … Scott Gordon, head coach of the New York Islanders, and Joe Sacco, head coach of the Lake Erie Monsters of the American Hockey League, are the assistant coaches for the 2009 U.S. Men's National Team.

GAME SUMMARY
Scoring By Period
USA 0 - 3 - 0 - 3
FIN 0 - 2 - 0 - 2

First Period - Scoring: None. Penalties: USA, Brown (tripping), 9:30; USA, Blake (interference), 16:37; USA, Higgins (hooking), 19:03.

Second Period - 1, FIN, Kapanen (Hagman, Miettinen), :57 (pp); 2, USA, Brown (Suter, Hainsey), 10:31 (pp); 3, USA, Oshie (Backes, Okposo), 12:11; 4, USA, Suter (Blake, Wilson), 14:19; 5, FIN, Hyvonen (Immonen), 17:50. Penalties: USA, Foligno (slashing), 3:48; FIN, Lehtonen (boarding), 4:48; FIN, Hyvonen (interference), 8:29; FIN, Ruutu (tripping), 9:06; FIN, Hyvonen (roughing), 15:33.

Third Period - Scoring: None. Penalties: FIN, Santala (holding), 7:02; USA, O'Sullivan (holding), 12:29.

Shots by Period

USA 7-15-13-35
FIN 20-17-12- 49

Goaltenders
USA: Esche 60:00 47-of-49
FIN: Rinne 59:07 32-of-35

Power Play
USA 1-5
FIN 1-5

Penalties
US
A 5-10
FIN 5-10

Referees: Daniel Piechaczek (GER), Brent Reiber (SUI)
Linesmen: Petr Blumel (CZE), Chris de Haan (CAN)
Attendance: 9,334
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