Bring on Canada!

JAN.3 -- Russia became the first team to reach the final on Friday afternoon beating Finland 4-1 in semi-final action on the ice of Halifax Metro Center.

Rafail Ishmatov's squad delivered solid, albeit lackluster effort to dispose of quite banged up and tired Errka Westerlund's team.

"We're yet to play the way we really can play at this tournament," - said Ishmatov following the game. Couldn't agree with him more, as Russia thus far has been performing good enough to win, but is yet to play with energy and despair which is much due to lack of quality opposition at the event.

Russians had the Finns on their hills for much of the game's opening period. Halfway through it Evgeny Artyukhin got his first goal of the tournament finishing a spectacular solo rush throughout the middle with a quick backhand shot to the top shelve.

Finland managed an equalizer late in the period while being on the power play. Jesse Niinimaki beat Andrei Medvedev five hole with a low shot within the slot off a nifty set up by Sean Bergenheim. However the defending champs came short of restoring their lead right away, as Kirill Koltsov fired a shot off the iron in the closing moments prior to intermission.

The Finns trapped with their trademark 4-1 combo with partial success throughout the second period keeping Russian forwards on periphery. However worth noting that Russians weren't quite eager to apply pressure on Kari Lehtonen. Ishmatov's boys were comfortable waiting for the right opportunity to present. Suomi generated a few good chances in the second engagement, but failed to hit the target on those, while mostly of Russia's 10 shots on Lehtonen's net were quite harmless.

Russia's powerful surge in the opening minutes of the final period solved game's outcome. First Alexander Ovechkin stripped the puck from Jussi Timonen to set Yuri Trubachev on a duel with Lehtonen. Russian Captain roofed the puck for the GWG. Some 37 seconds later Igor Grigorenko sent Alexander Perezhogin on a break-away and Montreal draft pick fooled Kari the Goalie with a nifty deke before firing a shot to the left side of the net.

The intrigue of the contest was pretty much cooked when Grigorenko scored a similar to the one he got on Tuesday against Switzerland's Tobias Stephan, as he intentionally bunged the puck in off Lehtonen pads with a shot from behind the net.

Suomi tested Medvedev with a dozen of shots during the closing four minutes of the game, while Lehtonen was pulled in favor of an extra skater with Konstantin Korneev and than Andrei Taratukhin in the penalty box.

RHI three stars:
1. Grigorenko
2. Perezhogin
3. Koltsov

Game notes: Ishmatov rolled three defensive units for the first time at the tournament, sitting Dmitry Fakhrutdinov and Denis Ezhov for the entire game. Fakhrutdinov's scratch has been justified with Dmitry's poor play, while Ezhov could have provided a better effort defensively than mistake-prone Konstantin Korneev. Montreal's draftee was plain awful in games against Finland and Switzerland - as he often lost his position and fared miserably in one-on-one confrontations (especially along the boards)... The passive box mode Russia uses at PK may harm them in the final against Canada. This tactical mode enables the opposition to set up inside the zone quite harmlessly... Ovechkin had a quite game aside from helping Trubachev scoring the winner and dishing a punishing body check on Joni Pitkanen in game's opening shift ... Nikolai Zherdev once again played under a dozen of minutes, but managed a couple of shots on goal to give him a total of five in as many games. Quite less than an average of six he gets in the Superleague action.

On Thursday in quarterfinals action USA disposed of the Czech Republic by a 4-3 score in a tough fought contest. While Finland trashed Slovakia 6-0.

In Friday's other semi-final Canada lead by biased officiating on behalf of Switzerland's Danny Kurman defeated The U.S. team that arguably delivered its best effort at the tournament.

-- Max Dostoevsky

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