Champions dominate semi-final field at IIHF World Championship

Russia will be raging favourites to reach the final, ahead of their last-four clash with Sweden.

Olegs Znaroks’ men have conceded just one goal in their past 180 minutes on the ice in Minsk, including a 3-0 shutout of France in their quarter-final match-up.

Neither the Russians nor the Swedes have lost in regulation at the tournament so far, with Russia not even been pushed to overtime in eight games.

The Swedes won a thrilling last-eight match against hosts Belarus 3-2, coughing up an early lead before fighting back to advance.

Mattias Ekholm was pivotal for Par Marts’ men against the Belarusians, scoring the third-period winner while also providing an assist for the game’s opening goal.

The two nations are both looking for their second title in recent history, with Sweden chasing back-to-back championships while the Russians could make it two in three years.

Sweden has also finished top-three in four of the past five tournaments, while Russia – the 26-time champions – can add to their record tally if they maintain their domineering form.

In the other semi-final, the Czech Republic – champions in 2010 – and ’11 winners Finland go head-to-head.

It is arguably the weaker of the two semis, given both sides lost three times in the group stages.

However, the Finns will be riding high after two third-period goals saw them come from behind to beat Canada 3-2 while the Czechs had a somewhat comfortable 4-3 win over the United States.

The Czechs led 4-1 with 70 seconds to play before an almighty scare from American Tyler Johnson, who scored twice in 13 seconds to ensure a frantic finish.

However, Vladimir Ruzicka’s men held on to make the last four, and further their chances of a fourth medal in five years.

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