World Cup of Hockey 2016: Team Russia Advances To Semi-Final In Win Over Team Finland

Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /

Team Russia heads to the semi-final round as Team Finland, and by proxy Team North America, are headed home from the World Cup of Hockey.

Team Russia has reached a turning point at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. Only two options lie before them this afternoon; emerge victoriously and punch their ticket to the semi-final round, be toppled by the Finns and prepare to head home to their native Russia.

As you can imagine, Team North America is waiting in the wings for their opportunity to head to the big game. After defeating Team Sweden 4-3 in Overtime on Monday night, Team North America finds themselves on the cusp of the opportunity of a lifetime. If Team Finland emerges victoriously, Team North America is headed to the semi-final round in place of the Russians.

Unfortunately for Team North America, their Cinderella story has come to an end and they will be returning to their respective teams after Team Russia served up a 3-0 shutout to Team Finland.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay Lightning /

Tampa Bay Lightning

Both teams had some excellent opportunities in the first period of play. Both Tampa Bay Lightning forwards Nikita Kucherov and Vladislav Namestnikov had scoring chances for Team Russia while Lightning center Valtteri Filppula attempted to make a play for Team Finland.

Apparently, Team Russia had an affinity for the penalty box during the first period of play. The first penalty came just after the halfway point in the period when Montreal Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov was sent to the penalty box for Holding against San Jose Sharks forward Joonas Donskoi.

Under six minutes later, Russia would be headed back to the penalty box as Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin was sent to the sin bin for two minutes for Hooking against Joonas Donskoi. What is it with the Russians and attacking Joonas Donskoi?

Just 56 seconds before the end of the first period, the Finns would be headed to the penalty box for the first time today. This time, it would be Edmonton Oilers forward Lauri Korpikoski who would be headed to the sin bin. Korpikoski was sent off for Interference against Washington Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov.

It was almost scary how closely these teams compared during the first 20 minutes on the ice. Team Russia and Team Finland were tied in Shots on Goal, Faceoff Percentage, and many other popular statistics. The biggest difference maker in the first period was the goaltending.

When these two teams took the ice for the second period of play, little did they know everything was about to change. Just 3:42 seconds into the second period, St. Louis Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko would break the ice, putting the puck past Boston Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask, to put the Russians on the board.

Amazingly enough, just 1:19 seconds later, Ivan Telegin – with the assist from Vadim Shipachev – would find his way into the back of the net to give Team Russia a two-goal lead over Team Finland. Needless to say, Tuukka Rask has to be rather frustrated today.

The Russian team kept the pressure on when they took the ice for the third period of play. Just 3:39 into the third period, Pittsburgh Penguins alternate captain Evgeni Malkin would pick up yet another goal for the Russian team, giving them a three-goal lead over Team Finland.

Related Story: Team Canada Unceremoniously Eliminates Team USA

The Finnish team stood toe-to-toe with the Russians in today’s encounter. Their Shots on Goal, Faceoff Percentage, Hits, and Blocked Shots were all on point with their opponents. Unfortunately, Team Finland’s efforts just could translate to the scoreboard.

Russian netminder Sergei Bobrovsky would earn himself the shutout victory and help Team Russia punch their ticket to the semi-final round. Unfortunately, a Russian victory also means Team North America is headed home. This is rather disappointing all around considering how entertaining they have been to watch.

This means Team Russia will move on to take on Team Canada on Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. There is no world in which you will want to miss this game; especially if you are a Tampa Bay Lightning fan.

On Saturday night, Lightning fans will watch as captain Steven Stamkos and Team Canada take on their Lightning’s 2015-16 leading point scorer Nikita Kucherov, forward Vladislav Namestnikov, defenseman Nikita Nesterov, and goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. Needless to say, there will be something for everyone here.

Next: Yzerman Hopes To Have Kucherov Signed Following World Cup

As we’ve mentioned before, things are really heating up as the 2016 World Cup of Hockey enters the semi-final round. With the exception of Team Europe, the Tampa Bay Lightning have at least one player on each of the remaining teams. We don’t know about you, but we can’t wait to see how everything plays out on the ice.