Ice hockey heavyweights Russia and Canada reached the world championship semi-finals after thrilling wins while holders Sweden crashed out after a 5-4 sudden-death overtime defeat by traditional rivals Finland on Thursday.
On a day of enthralling action in Bratislava and Kosice, the Czech Republic were the only side to enjoy a smooth ride into the last four with a 5-1 drubbing of underdogs Germany.
The Russians edged old rivals the United States 4-3 and Canada also needed overtime to beat last year’s runners-up Switzerland 3-2 after grabbing an equalizer four-tenths of a second before the end of regular time.
Saturday’s semis will pit Russia against Finland while Canada face the Czech Republic. The final is on Sunday in Bratislava’s Ondrej Nepela Arena.
The Russians, who had romped through the group stage with seven straight wins, dominated the opening period and Nikita Gusev and Mikhail Sergachyov gave them a 2-0 lead.
The Americans pulled one back through Brady Skjei but Gusev fed Kirill Kaprizov for Russia‘s third and Mikhail Grigorenko rounded off another lightning break to make it 4-2 after Noah Hafinin had reduced the arrears with a backhander.
The Russians were forced to hang on after Alex Debrincat rifled in a first-time shot from Patrick Kane’s assist and the U.S. piled on late pressure.
“It’s disappointing because we had high expectations, so we’re not happy our tournament’s done so quickly,” Skjei said.
“They’re a really good team. We know that, but we’ve got a good team too and we thought we could beat them, and I still think that we could have.”