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Slovakia, Russia to Play for Gold at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup

Slovakia will have a chance to win gold for the first time in Hlinka-Gretzky Cup history after beating Finland on Friday. They'll meet up with Russia, the undefeated squad from Group A.
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Slovakia to Play for First Gold Medal

Slovakia will play for gold for the first time in Hlinka-Gretzky Cup history, with the hosts easily beating Finland 5-0 for a spot in the final game.

With the win, Slovakia will have a shot at winning a medal at the tournament for the first time since 1998. Slovakia has just two bronze medals to their credit, so no matter the result on Saturday, it'll be better than anything the team has ever achieved.

For the Finns, the team will aim for its first bronze medal since 2005 and just the fifth medal in the team's history at the event.

The Slovaks, flying high after a perfect 3-0 record in the round robin, scored the game's first goal at 13:27 while shorthanded. Servac Petrovsky would break in on the rush and fired a quick wrister behind Niklas Kokko, helping build upon a strong start for the kids in blue and red.

For the Finns, however, it was the only time the game was remotely close for them. Peter Repcik scored at 6:19 after knocking in Juraj Slafkovsky's shot, only to have Adam Sykora score less than a minute later. The 3-0 lead lasted until 18:41 when Markus Suchy scored to make it 4-0, and Alex Sotek added another 1:01 later to give the Slovaks a major 5-0 lead heading into the third period. Dalibor Dvorsky recorded his 12th point of the tournament for the Slovaks and the Finns got a pair of goals from Otto Hokkanen and Joakim Kemell, but by then, Slovakia had already done its damage.

Sweden Blows Third Period Lead, Russia Advances

In a much closer game over in the Czech Republic, Russia came from behind on multiple occasions to beat Sweden 7-5 to advance to the championship game.

Russia, winners of the tournament back in 2019, is seeking its fifth gold medal at the event, having won three of them in the first five years of the tournament. The Swedes will look to keep its medal streak alive at four years, winning silver in 2018 and bronze in 2017 and 2019.

It was an ugly start for the Russians, who were favored to win gold from the get-go. At 8:40, Jonathan Lekkerimaki grabbed his own rebound off of a feed from Fabian Wagner to make it 1-0. Then, at 11:55, he scored again, this time catching Sergei Ivanov off guard with a wrister just inside the blueline. 

Russia answered back at 14:18 after a poor sequence for the Swedes in front of their own net. After a defenseman gave the puck up in front of Hugo Havelid, Daniil Larkin scored on the doorstep after somehow getting a weak shot under Havelid's right pad to make it 2-1. 

The Russians were favored to win the championship from the start and their second half of the game would see some life. At 1:27, Alexander Perevalov jabbed home a rebound opportunity in front, but Lekkerimaki answered back just 10 seconds later to score a hat-trick and make it 3-2. 

Two minutes later, the Swedes restored their two-goal lead. Liam Ohgren's snipe would beat Sergei Ivanov's right arm to make it 4-2, but Matvei Michkov answered back another two minutes after that to make it 4-3. 

From there, the ball was in Russia's court. Daniil Grigojev tied it up at 37:16 and Ilya Rogovski put Russia ahead at 44:40. Ivan Demidov then gave Russia a two-goal advantage of its own after one-timing Gleb Trikozov's feed and in for the 6-4 goal, with that one proving to be the final marker. Mattias Havelid would get credit for the goal that made it 6-5, but Ruslan Gazizov would fire it into the empty net to finish off the game, giving Russia the come-from-behind 7-5 win.

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Three Stars

1. Rastislav Elias, G (SVK): Gave up two goals late, but Elias has been the best tournament from Day 1 and that didn't change today.

2. Jonathan Lekkerimaki, F (SWE): Three goals, all in the first period, gave Sweden an early advantage over a Russian team most picked to win gold.

3. Matvei Michkov: F (RUS): Even when he wasn't putting the puck in the net, he was finding ways to create offense. A true star.

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Championship Saturday

Russia vs. Slovakia (Gold): 11:00 AM ET
Finland vs. Sweden (Bronze): 11:00 AM ET

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