Originally created 05/15/98

Swedes and Finns advance to gold medal final

ZURICH, Switzerland -- Sweden and Finland advanced to the gold-medal game of the World Ice Hockey Championships on Thursday, setting up only the third all-Scandanavian final in the history of the tournament.

After winning the first leg 4-1 over Switzerland on Tuesday,

Sweden cruised into the final with a 7-2 victory against Switzerland in the second leg of the semifinal on Thursday. Sweden won Tuesday's first leg 4-1.

Finland, which beat Olympic champion Czech Republic 4-1 in the first leg, struggled to a 2-2 draw in the second. The Finns advanced with three of a possible four points.

"The team is unbelievable," Finland coach Hannu Aravirta said. "It's so fine to see inexperienced players with such confidence and who believe they can get better and better. They never gave up.

"Luck was on our side, it has come at the right moment," Aravirta added. "Hopefully there will be a little left for the final."

Sweden and Finland have played each other for the gold medal only twice before, the last time being in Stockholm in 1995, when Finland beat Sweden for its first title.

The only other time the two met, at Prague in 1992, Sweden prevailed, collecting its sixth and final title.

Marian Kacir, who scored twice, opened the scoring for the Czechs late in the second period. The Finns rallied early in the third with goals from Raimo Helminen and Jere Karalahti to take a 2-1 lead. Less than two minutes later, Kacir scored his second goal.

After losing the first leg, the Czechs needed to win the second to force a 10-minute sudden-death overtime tiebreaker. Czech coach Ivan Hlinka pulled goalie Milan Hnilicka but the team was unable to convert.

"It was a very different team than the one that played the other night," Czech coach Slavomir Lener said. "They put a lot of pressure on the Finns the whole game and all our tactics were fulfilled except for our self-discipline. We took too many penalties which cost us the game."

The Czechs will face Switzerland in the bronze medal match on Friday short two of its key players -- Frantisek Kucera, who was hospitalized with an eye injury, and Robert Reichel, who sustained knee ligament damage.

Switzerland, which had been riding on momentum, had produced a gutsy effort in the first leg.

In the second leg, however, they were unable to repeat the effort, allowing as many goals in the first period as Sweden had scored during the entire first game.

Switzerland, which had been riding the momentum created by the support of its home fans, had produced a better effort in the first leg of the two-leg semifinals, losing 4-1.

In the second leg, however, the Swiss were overpowered, allowing as many goals in the first period as Sweden had scored during the entire first game.

Upgraded to the A-Pool for the first time since 1992, and only because they were the home team, the Swiss were overwhelmed by a Swedish squad stacked with nine NHL players, including Peter Forsberg of the Colorado Avalanche and Mats Sundin of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"We needed a perfect day with perfect energy and perfect execution to have a chance against an extremely strong Swedish team," coach Ralph Krueger. said. "But it wasn't there.

"We'll pull together for the bronze medal game. To win a medal would be the biggest achievement for Swiss hockey."

Recovered from an eye injury sustained earlier in the tournament, Fredrik Modin of the Maple Leafs put the Swedes up 1-0 at 4:55 in the first period during a goal-mouth scramble.

A goal by Mikael Renberg of the Tampa Bay Lightning at 10:15 was followed by one from Ulf Dahlen three minutes later, and another by Christer Olsson at 17:02, increasing the Swedes' lead to 4-0.

Olsson's goal prompted a switch in Swiss goaltending, with David Aebischer replaced by Reto Pavoni.

Pavoni allowed only one goal in the second period, by Johan Tornberg.

Sweden scored twice in the third period, Niklas Sundstrom connecting at 6:12 before setting up Forsberg two minutes later, giving the Swedes a 7-0 lead.

Dino Kessler scored Switzerland's first goal at 10:22, from just inside the blueline between Salo's pads. Three minutes later, Reto Von Arx completed the scoring.


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