Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne stopped all 20 Czech Republic shots he faced as Finland won its semifinal matchup, 3-0, to advance to the 2014 World Championship Gold Medal Game where it will face Russia on Sunday at 1 p.m. CT at Minsk Arena in Minsk, Belarus.
Joining Rinne on Team Finland are Predators prospect Miikka Salomaki, who played 9:23 in Saturday’s win, and 2013 draft pick Juuse Saros. Salomaki led the Predators AHL affiliate Milwaukee Admirals in points during the 2013-14 season, while Saros is serving as third goaltender for the tournament and won 2014 Finnish Elite League Rookie of the Year honors earlier this week.
Rinne’s shutout of the Czechs was his third of the tournament; he blanked Germany and Belarus in the preliminary round. The two-time Vezina Trophy finalist has been dominant in his third World Championship appearance, posting a 6-2 record, a 1.49 goals-against average and a .939 save percentage in eight starts. Salomaki has two points (1g-1a) and a +3 rating in nine games, and is the youngest skater on the team. Saros is the only player younger among Finns participating in the tournament.
In the first semifinal on Saturday, Sweden struck first, but gave up three straight goals to Russia to fall by a 3-1 score and will play the Czechs for the Bronze Medal at 8:30 a.m. CT. Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm continued his stellar tournament, leading the Tre Kronor in ice time (25:12) and posting a +1 rating, while Predators forward Calle Jarnkrok recorded a shot in 11:54 played.
Following the game, Ekholm, who is competing in his first senior level international tournament for Sweden, was named one of the country’s three best players of the tournament, accolades that Seth Jones and Craig Smith received for Team USA on Thursday.
Heading into tomorrow’s Bronze Medal Game, Ekholm paces Swedish blueliners in points (2g-4a), while Jarnkrok is a +3.
The Nashville Predators have 13 representatives at the 2014 World Championship being held May 9-25 in Minsk, Belarus. Head Coach Peter Laviolette, Assistant Coach Phil Housley, Video Coach Lawrence Feloney, Seth Jones and Craig Smith are representing the United States, who is looking for back-to-back medals at the tournament after a bronze a year ago; Miikka Salomaki, Pekka Rinne and Juuse Saros are playing for Finland; Calle Jarnkrok and Mattias Ekholm are looking to defend Sweden’s crown at the tournament; Simon Moser and Roman Josi represented Switzerland; and Ryan Ellis is playing for Canada.
Alexis Witman contributed to this report.