For the first time since 2002, Russia is one victory away from snapping its 15-year World Championship drought. With a dominating 4-0 defeat of Finland Friday afternoon at the 2008 IIHF World Championship semi-finals, along with Canada’s 5-4 victory over Sweden, Russia will face-off against its long time foe on Sunday at the Colisee Pepsi in Quebec City at 1:00 p.m. to play for its first World Championship title since 1993. Through Russia’s first six periods of medal round play, it has outscored the opposition 10-0. But this Russian team, featuring a blend of NHL stars along with Russian Super League standouts, will not be satisfied to leave Quebec without a championship.
Contributing greatly to Russia’s likelihood of capturing gold is that Sergei Fedorov is playing like it’s 1993. The future first-ballot Hall of Famer opened the scoring 13:41 into the first with his 5th goal and team-leading 10th point of the tournament. Fedorov has been united with Capitals teammates Alexander Semin and Alexander Ovechkin on a line, all of whom have registered 10 points entering Sunday’s match.
The prolific Ak-Bars Kazan trio of Alexei Morozov, Danis Zaripov and Sergei Zinoviev generated Russia’s next two goals. Morozov and Zaripov, who ranked 2nd and 3rd, respectively, in RSL scoring during the 2007-2008 campaign, each scored a goal, with Zinoviev notching assists on both. Zaripov beat Finland goalie Niklas Backstrom 3:44 into the 2nd period, and Morozov whipped Backstrom five-hole through a screen from the right-circle with just under 9 minutes to play in the third to give Russia an insurmountable 3-0 lead. (watch it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kxni9sm_cNA). Morozov’s marker was his 5th of the tournament. Maxim Sushinsky, who was 5th in RSL scoring this past season, ensured the coveted Russia-Canada Final with an empty-netter with approximately two minutes remaining in the game.
Russia rides a very hot Evgeni Nabokov into the Final. The 2007-2008 Vezina Trophy finalist has stopped all 45 shots he has faced in the quarter and semi-finals, but will need to elevate his game to defeat Canada on Sunday. Canada’s attack is spearheaded by Dany Heatley, who leads the Championships with 11 goals and 18 points. However, boosting Russia’s prospects of returning home with gold is the return of Heatley’s former Atlanta Thrashers teammate, sniper Ilya Kovalchuk. Kovalchuk served an automatic one-game suspension against Finland. A full complement of players gives Russia a tremendous opportunity to end its 15-year itch.