February 24, 2006

Finland blanks Russia in semifinal showdown

TURIN (Reuters) - Saku Koivu had a goal and an assist and
Antero Niittymaki made 21 saves as Finland shutout Russia 4-0
in Olympic men's hockey on Friday, setting the stage for an
unexpected all-Nordic gold medal final.

Finland, who have never won Olympic hockey gold, will face
off against their bitter sporting rivals Sweden on Sunday in a
golden showdown that is sure to ignite Nordic passions.

The Swedes eased past the Czech Republic 7-3, to earn their
first appearance in the final since claiming their only Olympic
title at the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Games.

Russia, who knocked out defending gold medallist Canada in
the quarter-finals, will play the Czech Republic for the bronze
medal on Saturday.