COLOGNE, Germany — Finland ended the United States’ ice hockey world championship campaign with a 2-0 defeat in the quarterfinals on Thursday, after a run of six straight victories for Jeff Blashill’s young roster.
“It goes without saying we’re bitterly disappointed,” said Blashill, whose team looked to be improving with each game following its surprise 2-1 defeat to co-host Germany in the opener.
“We believed that this team had the ability to win the tournament. They are a great group who cared, were selfless and played some great hockey. Unfortunately, Finland was better than we were today and I congratulate them.”
Switzerland was to face Sweden later Thursday in Paris, while two-time champion Canada was taking on Germany in Cologne.
Strong defense and a shut-out from Harri Sateri on his fourth start helped Finland surprise the U.S., which had beaten Russia to finish top of its group. The Americans outshot Finland by 26 to 20.
“We didn’t give up any goals so we feel we performed our game plan pretty well,” defenseman Juuso Hietanen said. “We didn’t give them any easy chances and we scored an important goal on the power play. Our defense was pretty good all night.”
The Finns had the best chance early on when goaltender Jimmy Howard denied Juhamatti Aaltonen on a breakaway.
Anders Lee was penalized for tripping at the start of the second period and Rantanen scored on the power play at the third attempt after Howard twice saved.
Howard, who finished with 18 saves compared to Sateri’s 26, produced another good block to deny Valtteri Filppula, but he was beaten by Kemppainen midway through the final period. Kemppainen swept the puck home after great interplay with Aaltonen.
Howard, who was the U.S. player of the game, said the Finns “made it tough on us all night long.”
Kevin Hayes, who was penalized for playing without a helmet at the start of the period, was then penalized again for slashing. Hopes of equalizing took another hit when Jack Eichel was sent to the box for high-sticking with less than two minutes remaining.
In Paris, Sergei Plotnikov set up Orlov and Kucherov swept in the Russians’ second on a power play shortly afterward in the first period.
Overall, despite bossing possession, the Czechs were closed down well by the Russians, restricting their ability to get into good shooting positions. Russia wasn’t dominating but it did look comfortable. Czech frustration was summed up when forward David Pastrnak‘s stick broke in half on a slap shot.
“We played quite well in the beginning of the game, in the first period, but we weren’t scoring,” Czech coach Josef Jandac said. “When Russia scored they controlled the game for the next two periods.”
Panarin, the tournament’s scoring leader, wrapped it up off Kucherov’s cross-ice pass in the third. It was his fourth goal of the tournament and 14th point overall.
“It was a tough game. We didn’t start very well and the Czechs could have scored,” Russia coach Oleg Znarok said. “The ice isn’t very good here. We can say it’s very bad so it was difficult to play well.”
Russia next returns to Cologne, where both semifinals take place.