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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russians, Czechs Squeak Into Izvestia Cup Finals

Both Russia and Finland beat up on weak teams Sunday in a goal-differential battle to determine the finalists in the 27th annual "Izvestia Cup" ice hockey tournament.


Russia won by a single goal after the two teams tied 2-2 Saturday, setting up a final Tuesday pitting Russia against the Czech Republic.


With the advantage of playing the final match and knowing they needed a seven-goal victory margin to win Group A and make the finals, the Russians poured it on to defeat Italy 8-1. Earlier, Finland shut out France 9-0.


In Group B play, it also came down to the final game, as the Czech Republic edged Sweden 3-2 in a match Sunday between the two strongest teams in that group.


The Swedes, who were pre-tournament favorites to win it all thanks to the arrival of seven locked-out players from the National Hockey League, will now have to settle for a shot at the bronze medal in their match Tuesday against Finland.


Sweden, whose offense was bolstered by Mats Sundin of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Peter Forsberg of the Quebec Nordiques and Mikael Renberg of the Philadelphia Flyers, needed only a draw to qualify for the final but was dominated by a more aggressive Czech team.


After a scoreless first period, the Czechs scored two goals in the second period to which the Swedes replied with two of their own in the third. Michal Straka scored the winning goal with 8:13 remaining on the clock.


In Saturday's tie, the Russians played a close-checking match against the highly touted Finns. Finland often looked like a better team on the ice but was unable penetrate the tight Russian defense.


Before Sunday's action, Russia had a three-goal lead over Finland, the tie-breaker since both teams ended up with identical records of two victories and a tie.


In the opening match Sunday, Finland poured it on against a poor French squad 9-0 and it looked for a time as if that might be enough to edge the Russians. The host country needed to win by at least seven goals and in the end it just did accomplish the mission.


At the post-match press conference, Russian coach Boris Mikhailovsaid that he was happy with the result. "We achieved our goal, which was to finish first in our group and play in the final," he said. Mikhailov. "The whole team played well," he added, declining to single out any players.


Curt Lindstrom, the Finnish coach, likewise said he was satisfied with his team's performance. "We've brought in some young guys to play in Moscow, and for the most par they performed rather well," said Lindstrom. Throughout the tournament he opted to bench the more experienced Teemu Selanne of the Winnipeg Jets and Jari Kurri of the Los Angeles Kings, whom he said he was saving for next spring's world championships in Sweden, in favor of playing younger players like Hannu Virta, Saku Koivu and Tino Jutila.


Lindstrom also noted that he was not annoyed that the Russians set up a tournment schedule allowing them to play the last game, thus knowing the goal target they needed to advance.


"It is up to the host country to set up the tournament schedule, so it was out of our hands to change anything," he said.


In Sunday's other Group B match, Norway defeated Switzerland 4-0.


The winner of the Russia-Czech Republic final at Luzhniki Sports Palace at 6:30 P.M. will get $93,000.


In the third-place match, Finland will square off against Sweden at Luzhniki at 2:30 P.M. At CSKA Ice Palace, Switzerland will play France at 3 P.M. for seventh place and Norway will meet Italy at 7 P.M. to decide fifth place.