HELSINKI — Say this about Russians: Humility — at least when it comes to hockey — is not part of their character.
It will be Russia vs. Finland for world junior gold in a battle of northern hockey neighbours after the dust settled in the semifinals of the world junior hockey championship.
The relationship — politically anyway — between Russia and Finland has been uneasy historically. And Russian defenceman Alexander Mikulovich laid down a gauntlet of sorts after Russia beat the Americans 2-1 on Monday.
“Our character helped us,” said Mikulovich. “That will help us. Finland doesn’t have too much.”
And asked how the Russian beat the Americans, Russian coach Valeri Bragin didn’t mince words.
“We wanted it more,” said Bragin.
The Russians scored twice in less than two minutes in the second period to eliminate an American lead and establish one they would never surrender.
“I’m disappointed to lose a game — a chance to get to the gold medal game on the line, to lose that game by a goal,” said American coach Ron Wilson. “That’s disappointing. We did the best we could.”
Finland, meanwhile, smothered Sweden to take its game 2-1. Again, it was goals early in the second period that erased a Swedish first-period lead.
“Playing for a gold medal here in front of our fans is amazing,” said Finland goalie Kaapo Kahkonen. “It’s amazing. It’s a huge rivalry against Sweden and it feels really good to beat them.”