Sunday, September 05, 2004

European arch rivals put on a show in Helsinki

On any given night, a game between Finland a Sweden could best be described as a pick em. And on Saturday in the final game of the round robin portion of the World Cup of Hockey it once again would be appropriate term.

The Finns got off to a rocket of a start, when they scored two goals in four minutes against a shaky looking Michael Tellqvist. The bulk of the scoring took place in a manic twenty minutes of play of the first period. As the two teams headed for the dressing room, they were tied a three a piece and defence was apparently a forgotten art.

Things finally slowed down a bit in the second as the Finns took the lead once again, only to have the Swedes come back late in the third and tie things up once again with only 11 seconds remaining, sending the game into a five minute overtime period. Which was fine with the fans, who are getting used to these barn burner finishes for the two teams.

The overtime provided no final result as the game ended in a 4-4 tie, but on the strength of Goals For, the Finns will have the home ice advantage for the quarterfinal knockout round of the tournament. But it could be a case of the winner ending up a loser; the Finns will play the Germans in one quarterfinal, while the Swedes will face an improving Czech Republic squad.

With some scary goaltending moments for the three crown squad, advancing past the Czechs may not be as easy as everyone thought it would be at the start of the series. While the Germans have been a game squad, it’s not expected that they’ll be loading up the net behind Miikaa Kiprusoff, so many are expecting the Finns to advance.

The road ahead will be a bit more challenging for the Swedes, who feature a star studded line up but seem to find ways to get themselves into trouble. They get back on the job Monday as they host the Czechs. It could be a big moment for Swedish hockey or another disappointment in the making. It all depends on which Czech squad makes the trip to Sweden. Regardless, Swedish fans will be on the edge of their seats for many reasons.

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