Sweden, Finland renew rivalry in hockey semifinals

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) - Sweden coach Par Marts got his first chance to publicly reflect on his prediction that added another layer to a long-standing rivalry with Finland on and off the ice.

After the Swedes beat Slovenia to earn a spot in the Olympic semifinals, Marts said Russia would beat the Finns at a news conference.

Oops.

Finland, in fact, eliminated the host Russians and will face one of its European neighbors on Friday for a spot in the gold-medal game.

The next day, Marts insisted he didn’t regret honestly responding to a query about his possible opponents that most coaches usually dodge.

“I’m not like the other ones,” Marts said after Thursday’s practice. “I had a question and I answered it. That’s my way.”

And, Marts doesn’t seem to care if he fired up the Finns.

“I can’t do anything about it,” Marts said.

No, he can’t.

Finland coach Erkka Westerlund declined to react to what Marts said after he helped his team beat the host Russians, and was only slightly more forthcoming the following day.

“After the game,” Westerlund said with a coy smile, “he knew who won the game.”

The winner of the Sweden-Finland game will move on to play the defending Olympic champion Canadians or the United States on Sunday in the gold-medal game.

Like Marts, Sweden defenseman Niklas Kronwall isn’t afraid to say what he thinks.

While everyone knows how the Swedes and Finns feel about each other in Europe, fewer do in North America.

“It’s a love-hate relationship - definitely,” Kronwall said.

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