Ice hockey: Finland crush Russia's gold medal dream
By Frank Pingue
SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Finland crushed Russia's hopes of winning the men's ice hockey gold on home soil with a 3-1 quarter-final win at the Sochi Games on Wednesday.
Russia had entered the 12-team tournament as one of the favorites, with a huge weight of expectation on their shoulders from Russian President Vladimir Putin down, but proved no match for a Finnish team that won bronze at the 2010 Games.
"Inside I am absolutely empty," Russian captain Pavel Datsyuk told reporters. "The emotion we feel right now is disappointment, disappointment that we didn't live up to the hopes placed on us."
Russia got off to a fast start but the drag of playing four games in five nights appeared to take its toll. The players were unable to mount much of an offense and lost many battles along the boards against a determined Finnish team.
Ilya Kovalchuk got the army of Russian fans inside the Bolshoy Ice Dome on their feet when he opened the scoring with a one-timer from the slot that slipped in right under the crossbar eight minutes into the game.
Finland responded 87 seconds later when Juhamatti Aaltonen took a puck along the goal line before sending it under Russian goalie Semyon Varlamov's left arm.
Teemu Selanne scored after a turnover outside the Russian end, slipping a Mikael Granlund pass between Varlamov's legs with under three minutes to play in the opening period.
Finland struck again with a short-handed tally less than six minutes into the second period when Granlund scooped up a loose puck near the side of the Russian net before flicking it just inside the post with a backhand shot. Continued...