Sweden battles Finland in 2006 gold medal rematch


The Sports Network

Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - The first men's hockey semifinal at the Sochi Olympics will have a Nordic flair, as Sweden takes on Finland.

The Swedes rolled through Group C play at 3-0 and advanced to the semifinals with a 5-0 rout of overmatched Slovenia in the quarters. Finland finished second in Group B, behind Canada thanks to an overtime loss, then knocked off the host Russians with a 3-1 triumph in the quarterfinals.

Sweden received two goals from Carl Hagelin and 19 saves from Henrik Lundqvist in the easy victory over Slovenia. Lundqvist has two shutouts in Sochi and is trying to lead the Swedes to a third gold medal.

Lundqvist backstopped the Swedes to the gold medal in 2006, beating Finland in the gold medal game. Sweden won its first Olympic title in 1994.

Nicklas Lidstrom scored the winning goal in the third period eight years ago against the Finns in Turin and Lundqvist made 25 saves to lead the Swedes to gold.

Finland has never won a gold medal in men's hockey, but has been the most successful team since the NHL began Olympic participation at the 1998 Games in Nagano. The Finns have won three medals -- bronze four years ago and in '98 in addition to the 2006 silver. Russia, Canada, the United States and the Czech Republic each have two medals since '98.

This year's Finnish squad has been led by its offense, as the 15 goals scored in the preliminary round matched the United States for the most in round-robin play.

On Wednesday, the Finns scored three times after the Russians had opened a 1-0 lead. Teemu Selanne and Mikael Granlund each had a goal and an assist, while Juhamatti Aaltonen also scored. Tuukka Rask was brilliant in net, turning aside 37-of-38 shots he faced.

The winner will advance to Sunday's gold medal game against the winner of the other semifinal between the United States and Canada. The loser will play for bronze on Saturday.

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