Russia and U.S. advance to semifinals at world hockey championship

BERN, Switzerland – Russia and the United States will meet in the semifinals at the IIHF World Hockey Championship.

The defending champion Russians advanced with a 4-3 win over Belarus in the quarter-finals Wednesday while the Americans edged Finland 3-2.

The two teams will face off in the final four Friday.

Russia trailed twice in the second period Wednesday before forward Ilya Kovalchuk scored the winner in the third. The Atlanta Thrashers captain earned a team-leading 12th point of the tournament.

Vitali Proshkin, Vitali Atyushov and Alexander Frolov also scored for Russia.

Konstantin Koltsov, Oleg Antonenko and Ruslan Salei scored for Belarus.

Ilya Bryzgalov had 19 saves for the win, while Andrei Mezin made 28 stops in the Belarus net.

Guided by Glen Hanlon, the former Washington Capitals coach, Belarus was looking to repeat its upset over Russia at the 2000 world championships.

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“I’m extremely proud of our players. We had great leadership,” Hanlon said. “The best player on the ice scored the winning goal and that’s the way it’s supposed to be for them.”

Kovalchuk said Belarus always had extra motivation to play well against its neighbour.

“It’s a big thing for them,” Kovalchuk said. “Now we feel what the playoffs is. It was a great game and I think the best team is going forward.”

The Americans got three goals in a four-minute span from Dustin Brown, T.J. Oshie and Ryan Suter midway through the second period.

Hannes Hyvonen and Niko Kapenen scored for the Finns.

Goalie Robert Eshe made 47 saves for the U.S., as Finland outshot the Americans 49-35.