Canada and Finland will face off for the gold medal in the 2019 IIHF Hockey World Championship after scoring semifinal wins Saturday at Ondrej Nepela Arena in Bratislava, Slovakia.
Vegas Golden Knights winger Mark Stone continued to build a strong case for tournament MVP with a goal and an assist to pace the Canadians in a 5-1 victory over the Czech Republic. Darnell Nurse (Edmonton Oilers), Pierre-Luc Dubois (Columbus Blue Jackets), Kyle Turris (Nashville Predators) and Thomas Chabot (Ottawa Senators) also lit the lamp for the 26-time champions.
Meanwhile, Finland ended the title hopes of previously undefeated Russia with a dramatic 1-0 triumph. Captain Marko Anttila scored the game's only goal with just under 10 minutes left in regulation, while goalie Kevin Lankinen stonewalled the numerous Red Machine snipers to earn a 32-save shutout.
Finland 1, Russia 0
Canada 5, Czech Republic 1
Bronze Medal: Russia vs. Czech Republic (9:45 a.m. ET)
Gold Medal: Canada vs. Finland (2:15 p.m. ET)
Championship Game Preview
Canada played the semifinal with the freedom of a team given a second lease on life, and it's easy to understand why.
Alain Vigneault's squad was less than a second from elimination in the quarterfinals before a Damon Severson (New Jersey Devils) slap shot beat Switzerland netminder Leonardo Genoni and trickled across the goal line with 0.4 seconds left in the third period to tie the game.
Stone scored in overtime to punch the Canadians' ticket to the semifinals, and now the they are one win away from their first world title since 2016. They failed to reach the final the last two years.
Finland, which last captured World Championship gold in 2011, poses a difficult final challenge for Canada, though. The Lions scored a 3-1 victory over the Canadians in the first game of pool play and put their defensive prowess on display once again Saturday to upset Russia.
The Finns also showcased their ability to win a high-scoring shootout in a 5-4 overtime triumph against rival and defending champion Sweden in the quarterfinals.
Kaapo Kakko could be the X-factor in the final.
The 18-year-old sensation is a candidate to become the first overall pick in the 2019 NHL draft on June 21, and he shined with six goals in Finland's first four games of the event.
He's failed to find the net in the team's last five contests, however, and figures to see a heavy dose of Canada's defensively strong second line—Anthony Cirelli (Tampa Bay Lightning), Sean Couturier (Philadelphia Flyers) and Sam Reinhart (Buffalo Sabres)—in the gold-medal game.
All told, it's hard to say whether Finland edging a Russian side that looked poised to win gold or Canada's destruction of the Czechs was the more impressive performance in the semis.
But now the stage is set for what should be a closely contested fight for the championship in Slovakia.