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Kulikov, Russia advance with win over Finland

With Russia's win, Jack Eichel and Team North America have been eliminated from the World Cup of Hockey

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

While one Sabre advanced at the World Cup of Hockey on Thursday afternoon, another was sent home early. Dmitry Kulikov and Russia earned the second seed in Group B with a 3-0 win over Finland and advanced to the semifinal round, where they will face Ryan O'Reilly and Canada on Saturday.

The win for Russia also means that Jack Eichel and North America have been eliminated from the tournament by virtue of the head-to-head tie breaker. North America and Russia both won twice in three games, but Russia won their head-to-head matchup on Monday. 

After a scoreless first period on Thursday, Russia began to pull away in the second thanks to goals from Vladimir Tarasenko and Ivan Telegin. Evgeni Malkin scored 3:39 into the final period to round out the scoring, while Russian goalie Sergei Bobrovsky was a perfect 21-for-21 in net. 

Kulikov was once again an instrumental part of the Russian defense in front of Bobrovsky, skating 20:55. He also accumulated 2:30 of ice time on the penalty kill and was on the ice for two of Russia's goals.

It's a difficult ending for Eichel and his North American teammates, who positioned themselves for a chance to advance with an overtime win over Sweden on Wednesday. North America became the darlings of the tournament in their three games for their fast, creative style.

Eichel finishes his tournament with two points (1+1) and eight shots in three games. Thursday also marked the final game for Finland and Sabres defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen, who also failed to qualify for the semifinal round. Ristolainen skated 21:46 in the loss to Russia.

With O'Reilly and Kulikov now set to square off, one Sabre is guaranteed a berth in the World Cup final. Their game will begin at 7 p.m. on Saturday and can be seen on ESPN 2, while the other semifinal between Sweden and Europe can be seen at 1 p.m. on Sunday on ESPN.

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