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Finland send Russia packing in ice hockey

Thursday, February 20, 2014    

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SOCHI, Russia (AFP) — Finland sent Russia crashing out of the Olympic ice hockey tournament yesterday in a bitter blow for the home nation as US skier Ted Ligety stormed to giant slalom gold.

Russia — desperate to make amends for their dismal showing at the 2010 Vancouver Games — took the lead in the quarter-final tie, but three goals from the Finns sealed the host nation's fate.

The 3-1 loss was a second successive Olympic Games defeat at the last-eight stage for Russia, who were booed off the Bolshoi Ice Palace rink by their shell-shocked fans.

Teemu Selanne and Juhamatti Aaltonen scored first-period goals for Finland after Ilya Kovalchuk had put Russia ahead, with Mikael Granlund adding the third.

Russian TV did not hold back in its immediate post-match hyperbole in a post-mortem that is sure to be damning in its verdict.

"We are all crying and we are crying with you too. We are hoping for revenge. Maybe one day there will be revenge. But maybe not with this team," said the commentator on state television Channel One.

A delighted Granlund said: "They had the first goal, but we bounced back really good, and throughout the game we defended well and didn't give them much. We made it tough on them."

Earlier yesterday, Sweden thumped Slovenia 5-0. Defending champions Canada were to take on Latvia in the last eight, while the USA were to battle the Czech Republic.

In the mountains above Sochi, four-time world champion Ligety, who disappointed in the super-combined and super-G, stamped his authority on the giant slalom early, leading by nearly a second after the first run in picture-perfect conditions.

The 29-year-old, who won combined gold at the 2006 Turin Games, did enough on his second ski to beat Frenchman Steve Missillier by nearly half a second in an overall time of 2min 45.29sec. French tyro Alexis Pinturault took bronze.

Away from the action, Ukraine's pole vault great Sergei Bubka, who now heads the country's Olympic Committee, urged talks to end deadly violence in Kiev.

But the International Olympic Committee rejected a request by Ukrainian athletes in Sochi to wear black armbands in mourning after violence that has left at least 25 people dead.

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