IIHF Worlds: Russia and Slovakia Square Off for Gold

HELSINKI, FINLAND - MAY 19: Libor Hudacek (C) of Slovakia celebrate with his team mates after he scores his team's 3rd during the IIHF World Championship semi final match between Czech Republic and Slovakia at Hartwall Arena on May 19, 2012 in Helsinki, Finland. (Photo by Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images)

The European hockey year started with tragedy in the form of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl plane crash, and now two of the nations most affected by the tragedy will be playing for gold with the memories of those lost on their mind. Pavol Demitra is a hero for Slovak hockey, and the team has openly admitted they are trying to win for him. But first we've got a bronze medal game to take care of.

Bronze Medal Game: Finland vs. Czech Republic (3:00 PM CEST, 9:00 AM EST)

Saturday was a tough day for the host Finns, who scored first but then proceeded to be dominated by Evgeni Malkin and a Russian attack that scored six unanswered goals. The home ice curse may have waited a bit to claim Finland, but it hit them in pretty embarassing fashion. The Czechs, meanwhile, couldn't buy a goal against the Slovaks and found themselves victim of a few costly mistakes, from the goaltender on out. But both these nations have a proud tradition of bouncing back in order to win a medal, and so this should be a pretty good game. Will the Finns replicate what the Czechs did a year ago by defending their gold medal with a bronze performance? Or can the Czechs win a third straight medal?

Gold Medal Game: Russia vs. Slovakia (7:30 PM CEST, 1:30 PM EST)

Russia runs a perfect record into the Finals, and Evgeni Malkin continues to be the man leading the demolition of the tournament, posting another ho-hum hat trick performance against Finland in the semifinal. Russia has outscored their opponents 38-12 en route to again claiming the #1 ranking in the world. But it's not over yet, and the Slovaks present a tough challenge. The Slovaks are the best defensive team (outside of Russia) in terms of goals against in the tournament, and with Zdeno Chara on the ice for most of the game, Malkin and company will have their hands full. The Slovaks have also been getting offensive contributions from throughout the lineup, Miroslav Satan being the most recent hero in the semifinals.

So who reigns supreme in 2012? Discuss the games as they happen in the comments.

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