By Josh Ferguson
Finland booked a semifinal matchup against the United States with a 2-0 triumph over the Czech Republic at UBC Thunderbird Arena on Wednesday.
With two goalies like Miikka Kiprusoff and Tomas Vokoun between the pipes, it shouldn’t be a shock that this game was knotted at zeros for the first 53:34 of the game.
Finland certainly had their fair share of chances in the opening frame as the Czechs spent almost half of the period killing penalties. Five different Czech players were nabbed for minor penalties, but Finland failed to convert in eight minutes on the man advantage.
The second period continued to show the parity between these two teams. After Finland outshot the Czechs 11-10 in the first, they were outshot 11-10 in the second. Kiprusoff and Vokoun stood tall, though, to keep the game scoreless through two periods.
There is a rule in the IIHF where if a player loses his helmet, he either has to retrieve it or get off the ice. With the rule coming into play in almost every game in Vancouver, you knew it was going to cost someone sooner or later.
Pavel Kubina felt the sting of the IIHF’s bucket bylaw when he chose to go retrieve his helmet behind his own goal on a Finnish power play. Kubina dropped coverage of Finland’s Niklas Hagman in the process and left the Calgary Flame all alone in front of the Czech net to deflect a Janne Niskala point blast past Vokoun with just more than six minutes left in the third.
Czech head coach Vladimir Ruzicka put the pressure on his team by pulling the goalie with 1:42 left in the third. Just seven seconds after yanking Vokoun, though, Mikko Koivu made a savvy move by controlling the puck out of his own end before making a cross-ice pass to a streaking Valtteri Filppula. The Detroit Red Wing had nothing but open space and a yawning cage and solidified the win with an empty-netter.
Kiprusoff stopped all 31 shots he faced for the shutout and the win, while Vokoun turned aside 29 of 30 shots at the other end.
Jaromir Jagr was in the lineup for the Czechs and finished the game with two shots in 11:48 of ice time.
Hagman’s marker on the man advantage was the first Finnish goal in 124 minutes and 33 seconds of play. Finland hadn’t scored since a Joni Pitkanen power play goal against Germany in the third period of their second game of the tournament.
The Finns will need some scoring punch in their semifinal matchup if they hope to get past the stingy goaltending of Ryan Miller and the Americans on Friday.