Defending champions Canada will have the chance to retain their title at the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Championships following a stunning comeback in the semi-finals today.
The North Americans defeated Russia 4-2 at the Lanxess Arena in Cologne after trailing 2-0.
Russia were hoping to reach the final after losing to Finland on home ice in last year’s semi-finals and they enjoyed a phenomenal start, leading 2-0 at the end of the second period.
Following a tense opening period, Yevgeni Kuznetsov put the Russians 1-0 up after 32 minutes before Nikita Gusev doubled his country’s advantage two minutes later.
The Russians looked in control of the match and certain of a place in the final until Canada’s Mark Scheifele pulled one back just 17 seconds into the third period.
A sublime passage of play then followed as the Canadians scored three times in just three minutes to steal the game.
Nate Mackinnon levelled the contest at 2-2 after 55 minutes.
The North Americans were then in front just under two minutes later when Ryan O’Reilly scored his country’s third.
Their place in the final was then assured when Sean Couturier added a fourth for Canada to complete the comeback.
Canada will now play Sweden in tomorrow’s gold medal match in Cologne after they comfortably beat Finland 4-1.
The Swedes raced into a 1-0 lead after Alexander Edler scored with less than two minutes played at the Lanxess Arena.
However, three minutes later Finland were level with Joonas Kemppainen firing into the opposition’s net.
After the two teams were level at the first buzzer Sweden took the lead once again.
Four minutes into the second period John Klingberg regained the lead for his team before William Nylander extended Sweden’s advantage to 3-1.
The final blow to Finland’s hopes of reaching the final came after 53 minutes when Joakim Nordstrom slotted home a fourth to send Sweden through.
Russia will now play Finland in the bronze medal match, which is also scheduled for tomorrow in Cologne.
2018 World Championships structure
The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) has assigned hosts for 27 tournaments on its 2018 World Championship programme.
The tournaments, which cover five categories – men’s, men’s under-20, men’s under-18, women’s and women’s under-18 – and several levels, were allocated during the IIHF Annual Congress in German city Cologne.
The best six nations outside of the men’s top division are set to play the World Championships Division I Group A at the 9,000-seat Laszlo Papp Sportarena in Budapest.
The venue has previously hosted several other ice hockey events at that level, including the World Championships Division I events in 2011 and 2013 and Olympic pre-qualification groups for Sochi 2014 and Pyeongchang 2018.
Hosts Hungary will be joined at the competition, for which the proposed dates are April 22 to 28, by Great Britain, Italy, Kazakhstan, Poland and Slovenia.
The top two teams will qualify for the 2019 World Championships in Slovakian cities Bratislava and Košice.
Poland’s capital Warsaw withdrew its bid, according to the IIHF, and plans to move forward with its application for another year.
The World Championships Division I Group B, meanwhile, will be staged in Lithuania’s second-largest city of Kaunas.
It will be hosted by the largest indoor venue of the Baltic countries, the Zalgiris Arena, which has a capacity of 13,762 fans for ice hockey.
Croatia, Estonia, Japan, Lithuania, Romania and Ukraine are scheduled to battle for promotion to Division I Group A from April 22 to 28.
Some of the events were awarded to places outside of traditional ice hockey countries, including the United Arab Emirates’ capital Abu Dhabi, which will host the World Championships Division III qualification on dates to be arranged.
South Africa’s capital Cape Town will stage the World Championships Division III from April 16 to 22 and the Under-20 World Championships Division III qualification from January 26 to 28, while Turkish city Erzurum has been given the hosting rights to the Under-18 World Championships Division III Group A from March 26 to April 1.
Other less traditional hosts include Mexico City and Queenstown in New Zealand, which have been awarded the respective Under-18 Women’s World Championships Division I Group B qualification from January 28 to February 3 and Under-18 World Championships Division III Group B on unspecified dates in March.
The programme also includes two new countries, Kuwait and Turkmenistan, with both due to compete at the World Championships Division III qualification in Abu Dhabi.
Turkmenistan is also in line for action at the Under-20 World Championships Division III qualification in Cape Town.
The full list of events awarded can be accessed by clicking here.
Several top-level events for next year had already been assigned before the Congress.
Denmark is set to host the IIHF World Championships for the first time ever in Copenhagen and Herning, while the IIHF World Junior Championships are scheduled to be held in the American city of Buffalo.
Russia is braced to stage the IIHF Under-18 World Championships in Chelyabinsk and Magnitogorsk and the IIHF Under-18 Women’s World Championships in Nizhny Novgorod.