Big games coming up Friday in Sochi
Canada vs. Finland – 16:00 Bolshoy Ice Dome
Last meeting: 6-5 Canada (OT) – 2012 IIHF U18 World Championship Bronze Medal Game
Canada entered the playoff round peaking at the right time with a 6-0 blowout of Sweden in the country’s final preliminary round game and a 6-0 defeat of the Czech REpublic in the quarter-final. Canada has yet to surrender a goal while on the penalty kill, and is second overall behind Russia in power play efficiency.
The country is also riding a seven-period consecutive shutout streak, thanks in part to the hot play of goaltender Philippe Desrosiers. The offence begins with 16-year-old Connor McDavid, who is leading the tournament with 14 points (8g+6a) in five games, the only Canadian to have cracked the top-10 in scoring.
Finland is taking on Canada for the first time since falling in overtime in the 2012 U18 World Championship bronze medal game. The team posted a 3W-1L record in the preliminary round, the only loss coming 3-1 to Russia.
The team has three players in the tournament top-10 for scoring: Kasperi Kapanen, son of former NHLer Sami Kapanen, Jusso Ikonen, and Artturi Lehkonen. The Finnish defence is backstopped by Juuse Saros, who has posted a 94.32 save percentage and a 2.00 goals-against average through five games.
Between Saros and Desrosiers, who has only allowed one goal at the tournament so far, the Canada-Finland game could easily come down to the wire.
USA vs. Russia – 20:00 Bolshoy Ice Dome
Last meeting: 4-3 Russia – 2013 IIHF U18 World Championship preliminary round
The semi-final matchup between Russia and the United States is a rematch of the opening game between the two countries. The teams clashed on the first day of the tournament at the Bolshoy arena, with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the audience. Vladimir Tkachyov scored the game winner as Russia handed the U.S. its first defeat since April 16th 2009. The winner of that game? Russia 6-5.
Prior to that, the USA defeated Russia in the preliminary round of the 2011 IIHF World Championship in Germany by a score of 4-3. All signs point ot what will likely be a close game between the two hockey superpowers.
While Russia has the advantage of a boisterous home crowd that has come out in force for each of the country’s games, the States are still the defending champs, and have brought home U18 gold seven times in total and four times in a row and counting.
Russia team captain Valeri Nishushkin appears to be warming up at the right time for his country, posting a hat trick against Germany in the quarter-final. But The Americans also need to be aware of Tkachyov, Pavel Buchnevich, and Ivan Barbashev, who each have scored eight points or more in the tournamnent.
The key to the game will be the American defence, led by goaltender Thatcher Demko, to try and slow down the Russian scoring machine. Demko, who gave up four to the Russians in the first game, is anxious for a rematch.
"Definitely, I looked over the tape from that game and saw a few mistakes that I made and some goals I would like to have back, so we'd be excited to play them again," he said.
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