Russia will be playing for gold for the first time since 2007 at the World Junior Hockey Championship after dispatching Sweden 4-3 in a shootout in their semi-final encounter. They will now face Team Canada on Wednesday at 7pm et/4pm pt in a game you can catch on TSN.
It will be the eighth time that these two sides have faced each other in the final game since the tournament changed it's format in 1995. Canada holds a 4-3 advantage. Russia has not captured gold in this tournament since beating Canada in the final in 2003 in Halifax.
Denis Golubev scored once in regulation then and the shootout winner while Dimitri Shikin made 25 saves and stopped all three shots he saw in the shootout.
"We have a good locker-room, players respect each other and we have a friendly atmosphere," said Russian coach Valeri Bragin. "When we found our weaknesses during the season, we tried to improve them by bringing in character players, so you see it [Monday] and [Sunday] and that's why we can equalize in the last minutes and manage to win.
"It's all about the character of the team."
It was a game that lacked intensity in the early going as the majority of fans at the half-full HSBC Arena were awaiting the start of the second semi-final game between Canada and the United States later in the evening.
Captain Vladimir Tarasenko opened the scoring for the Russians in the first period while Golubev added to the lead on a contentious play in the second period that was the talking point of this one.
Russia dumped the puck deep into the Swedish zone for what should appeared to be a clear cut automatic icing call. However it was waved off by a linesman allowing Stanislav Bocharov to pounce on the loose puck and feed Golubev who beat Robin Lehner for his second of the tournament.
The Swedish bench erupted in anger demanding an explanation from the officials, however the goal stood and Sweden were in a 2-0 hole.
Following the game Lehner was furious with the officials for waving off the icing.
"The (expletive) refs have a double standard," said an irate Lehner. "They can't scream icing and then call it off. That's not the refereeing standards in a tournament like this. It wouldn't have happened if Canada was playing that's for sure."
While they could have cracked, the Swedes instead turned up the pressure late in the period. They were eventually rewarded as the point shot of draft eligible prospect Adam Larsson eluded Dimitri Shikin in the Russian net pull Sweden within one. The power play marker was Larsson's first of the tournament.
Sweden kept the momentum in the third period as Detroit Red Wings' prospect Calle Jarnkrok redirected a shot past Shikin to square things at two goals apiece.
It appeared as though Sweden had punched their ticket to the gold medal game late in the third. With Dimitri Orlov in the box for slashing, Patrick Cehlin beat a screened Shikin from long range to give the Swedes their first lead of the game.
That lead would be short-lived as moments later the Russians evened things at three apiece as Sergei Kalinin banged home an equalizer after a mad scramble in front of the Swedish net to send this one to an extra frame.
Overtime solved nothing despite several great scoring chances by Sweden.
"We [played] our worst game when we needed it the most," stated Swedish coach Roger Ronnberg. "We played tight, we got caught in their trap system in the neutral zone over and over and didn't get the regular flow in our game.
"It was a difficult game for us, I felt the guys weren't that relaxed and hungry as they had been earlier in the tournament."
Sweden were forced to play without likely top 10 pick in the upcoming NHL draft, Gabriel Landeskog who will miss the remainder of the tournament with a sprained left ankle.
The Russians now move on to the gold medal game on Wednesday against Canada while Sweden will face the United States in the bronze medal game.