Team ROC comes together around goalie Ivan Fedotov to celebrate advancing to the gold medal game. Photo Credit: IIHF

With only two games remaining, The Inner Sanctum looks back on the semi-finals, and what the remaining teams will need to do to leave Beijing victorious.

Only two games remain in the Olympic men’s ice hockey tournament, and three of the four remaining teams will walk away with a medal, while one will leave empty-handed.

The Inner Sanctum is here to take you through what happened in the men’s semi-finals and look ahead as to what all four teams need to do to win their medal matches.

Finland v Slovakia

For Slovakia, who lost 6-2 to Finland in the group stage, the key to success here was going to be putting in a repeat performance similar to what it put up against the USA in the quarterfinals.

Keeping it a nice and close contest, outworking Finland, performing well on defence, and having a strong penalty kill. Slovakia managed to do all those things and was unable to pull off a second straight upset, as Finland ran out 2-0 winners to advance to the gold medal game.

In a game that would prove to be all about the goaltenders, scoring was at an absolute premium and goals were hard to come by.

Sakari Manninen would open the scoring for Finland with 4:02 remaining in the first period to give Finland the early lead.

The second period would see Finland have an extended period at 5v3 with two Slovakian players in the box and could have put the game to bed.

Much like it did against the USA, the Slovakian penalty kill came up massive, killing off the 5v3 and allowing Slovakia to stay into the game well into the late stages of the third period.

With 1:38 to go in the third period, Patrik Rybár would head to the bench for an extra attacker to give Slovakia a chance to equalise, but a bad bounce off the boards on the edge of the offensive zone for Slovakia sent the puck into the neutral zone.

From there, it was collected up by Harri Pesonen for Finland who just gently guided it into the empty net, sealing the two-goal victory with an empty-net goal, and advancing Finland to the gold medal game.

The shots for the game were 28-27 in favour of Slovakia, with Harri Säteri saving 28 of 28 for Finland in a shut-out victory, while Rybár would save 25 of 26 (96.15 save percentage) for Slovakia.

Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) v Sweden

With Finland advancing from the other semi-final, it would be up to ROC and Sweden to play for 60 minutes, or more, to determine who would play opposite Finland for a gold medal.

The best chance of the first period would come for Sweden with just under nine minutes to go, as a wrist-shot from the blue line would be redirected in front by Max Friberg would send the puck past Ivan Fedotov but would bounce off the post and be cleared out of the zone by Vadim Shipachyov.

With the game tied heading into the second period, it would not take long for that to change, as just 15 seconds in Anton Slepyshev would give ROC the lead from the games opening goal and put them one step closer to a gold medal.

The captain Anton Lander would find the equaliser for Sweden 6:22 into the third period after ROC turned the puck over in the Swedish defensive zone and a good zone breakout and entry into the offensive zone allowed Sweden to set up and score.

With no further goals in regulation, the game would head to sudden-death overtime, and with neither side being able to find a winner, a shootout. Five shots apiece, or more if still tied.

Neither side would convert its first, Lucas Wallmark would convert on Sweden’s second to give it the advantage. Both sides would convert on the third (Nikita Gusev for ROC and Joakim Nordström for Sweden), giving Sweden a 2-1 advantage.

Neither side would convert on the fourth go, and Yegor Yakovlev would convert for ROC on the fifth, and Lander missing, a sixth-round would be required.

Carl Klingberg would miss his second of the shootout, and Gusev would miss his second attempt.

Wallmark and Gusev would miss in the seventh go around, sending the shootout to an eighth round, where Friberg would be unsuccessful for Sweden, but Arseni Gritsyuk would convert for ROC to send them through to the gold medal against Finland.

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Bronze Medal Game: Sweden v Slovakia (Sunday 20th February, 12:10am AEDT, Saturday 19th Feb, 9:10pm local time)

Sweden will be competing for a medal after missing out in Pyeongchang in 2018 but winning silver in 2014 in Sochi, while Slovakia, will be competing for a medal for just the second time at the Olympics. Its previous trip to a medal game was in Vancouver in 2010, where it lost to Finland 5-3.

These two sides met in the group stages, with that result favouring Sweden 4-1 in a game that was dominated from start to finish by Sweden, with Slovakia’s only goal coming with 1:42 remaining in the third period.

Do not expect that to be much of an indicator as to how this game will play out, as Slovakia’s semi-final against Finland played out nothing like the group stage game. With a bronze medal on the line for the winner, expect a much closer contest as neither side will want to give an inch and risk going home empty-handed.

For Slovakia, the key to victory is simple. Repeat what it did against the USA and Finland. Keep the game nice and tight, have a strong penalty kill, and force Sweden into making some costly mistakes.

Having not scored on the power play yet (zero for 13), this game would also be a good time for that to change, although with Sweden having only conceded four times out of 15 being short-handed (73.33 percent), this might be a little tough for Slovakia.

Slovakia has a good side with some talented players, and if the team can develop a hot hand in this game and put some extended periods of pressure on Sweden, the bronze is theirs.

Team Sweden in the warm-ups against the ROC. Photo Credit: Tre Kronor/Twitter

For Sweden, the key to victory is a little more complex. It will need to put in a complete effort on every inch of the ice. It will need to put away its scoring chances (currently 13 goals from 146 shots, 8.90 percent). It will need to be first to every 50/50 puck battle. It will need to have a strong defence and goaltending (currently nine goals against 148 shots, 93.92 save percentage). It will need to outperform Slovakia on special teams (power play and penalty kill).

If Sweden can successfully do all these things, then it will walk away with a bronze medal.

Gold Medal Game: Finland v ROC (Sunday 20th February, 3:10pm AEDT, 12:10pm local time)

The ROC is looking for back-to-back gold medals after being successful in 2018 as Olympic Athletes from Russia, while for Finland, it is looking for its first-ever gold medal at the Olympics to go along with its two silver (1988 and 2006), and four bronze (1994, 1998, 2010, and 2014).

The key to victory for Finland will be to keep the game at 5v5 and continue scoring at its current tournament-leading rate (20 goals off 145 shots on goal, 13.79 percent) and for its goaltending to continue performing excellently, where it also leads the tournament with a 95.17 save percentage (seven goals against from 145 shots on goals).

Special teams play is where Finland has struggled most throughout the tournament, only managing four goals on the power play from 13 opportunities (30.77 percent), while its penalty kill has let in five goals from 15 times being short-handed (66.67 percent success rate).

Its power play is much better than ROC’s however, with the ROC only going two for 16 (12.50 percent),

Finland has an edge in that department, however, keeping the game at 5v5 should still be the key for Finland.

Finland comes together to celebrate the first goal against Slovakia. Photo Credit: Leijonat/Twitter

If Finland can successfully outwork ROC and keep the game at 5v5, then it should be able to secure the gold medal.

For ROC, the path to gold will be to grind out a one or two-goal low scoring victory, which it has done every time it has won a game this tournament (1-0, 2-0, 3-1, and 2-1, with the lone loss being 6-5).

Having scored 13 goals from 173 shots (7.51 percent), converting on its chances will be crucial to victory, and keeping the game at 5v5. With a poor power play, and a penalty kill that is identical to Finland, keeping the game at 5v5 will be ideal for ROC as well.

The goaltending has been outstanding for ROC, only conceding eight goals from 143 shots (94.41 save percentage), and it will need to come up massive against Finland.

Doing all these things will help send ROC on the path to victory, and back-to-back gold medals.

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