Tomorrow afternoon, two Nordic nations will play for the right to be called World Champions. Sweden and Finland will play each other in the championship game for the third time since 1992. They are currently ranked third (Sweden) and fourth (Finland) in the most recent IIHF World Rankings.
The Finns have not won the annual international tournament since 1995, when they defeated the same nation on Swedish soil in Stockholm. They will have the weight of an entire country on their shoulders, as most of the players were anywhere between toddler and teenage years when Saku Koivu led his country to the championship as a young Montreal Canadiens prospect.
Playing the underdog role in the broad landscape of European hockey due to the dominance of Sweden and Russia, Finland has played for gold four times since 1995; falling to Sweden (1998), Czech Republic twice (1999 and 2001) and Canada (2007).
The Finns are led by Jarkko Immonen, who is the leading scorer in the tournament. His 11 points in eight games have come via eight goals and three assists. Yesterday we profiled Mikael Granlund, and the young forward is the teams second-leading scorer and could play a role in setting up other players as he is second in the tournament with six assists.
Since losing to the Finns in 1995, Sweden has earned a medal 10 times. In that span, it has consisted of two golds (1998 and 2006), three silvers (all losses to Canada) and five bronze. If the Swedes wish to add another gold to their collection, they have to find a way to figure out how to get pucks past goalie Petri Vehanen, who has allowed seven goals in 328 minutes. For those keeping score at home, he has a 1.28 GAA and a .950 save percentage. Just like Finland, the Swedes have firepower both in goal and at the forward position.
Patrik Berglund is second in points with 10. Berglund is tied with Immonen with eight goals, but Berglundhas a +6 rating compared to Immonens +1 rating. Sweden goalie Viktor Fasth leads the tournament in save percentage (.968), goals against-average (1.00), and shutouts (3). His three clean sheets are 1/3of the entire shutouts recorded in the entire tournament. Of goalies that have played 40 or more percentage of their teams games, Fasth is tied with Jonathan Bernier of Canada with least goals allowed with six. The difference is that Bernier played 42 percent of his teams minutes compared to 74 percent of Fasth.
The bronze medal game will take place prior to the gold medal game between Czech Republic and Russia. Both games will take place in Bratislavia, Slovakia. The co-host city (along with Kosice) is located in the west end of the nation, and borders Austria and Hungary. The bronze medal game will take place at 10:00 a.m. EDT, while the goal medal game will start at 2:30 p.m. EDT.
Another fact dealing with tomorrow’s games: In the two times Sweden has defeated Finland in the championship game, Czechoslovakia/Czech Republic has won the bronze medal. When Finland won in 1995, Czech Republic lost the bronze medal game to Canada.