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Finns bounce host Russians from men’s hockey playoff

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Just prior to the start of the Olympic tournament, Russia’s Alex Ovechkin said he had a “dream” of winning a gold medal on home soil

On Wednesday, that dream died.

Finland beat Russia 3-1 in front of a partisan Russian crowd at the Bolshoy Ice Dome, stifling the host country for most of the game while setting off a national nightmare in the process.

Russia came into this tournament with huge hopes riding on hockey gold. Ovechkin joked a gold medal would “only cost $50-billion” — well, we think he was joking — and his teammates also acknowledged the pressure to win it all. Yet their tournament will end with a quarterfinal loss, and Finland deserves full credit for ending it.

VIDEO: Watch highlights from the game

Juhamatti Aaltonen, Teemu Selanne and Mikael Granlund all scored for Finland, with the three goals coming unanswered after Ilya Kovalchuk opened the scoring for the Russians midway through the third period. Granlund, 21, has stepped up huge in this tournament after injuries kept veteran forwards Mikko Koivu and Valtteri Filppula from participating — Granlund now has a team-high five points.

If today’s game showed one thing, though, it’s the importance of quality goaltending in a single elimination tournament. Tuukka Rask was absolutely brilliant for the Finns, stopping 37 of 38 shots. Russia, meanwhile, got an uneven start from Semyon Varlamov — chased after allowing three goals — and was forced to insert Sergei Bobrovsky early in the second period.

The Russian goaltending situation will likely come under fire. Head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov went back and forth between Varlamov and Bobrovsky all tournament long; conversely, Finland has started Rask in three of its four games, including the last two against Canada and Russia.

This wasn’t just about goaltending, however. Finland played a smart, efficient game and outworked the Russians on a number of occasions. At no time was that more evident than on Teemu Selanne’s game-winning goal; Minnesota forward Mikael Granlund chased down and stripped Slava Voynov for a loose puck before centering to Selanne, who broke his own record (set five days ago) as the oldest goalscorer in Olympic history.

The Finns will now face Sweden in the semifinal for the chance to advance to Sunday’s gold medal game.

The Russians, meanwhile, will now face a number of questions.

WATCH LIVE: Big Air at Fenway — 8:30 p.m. ET

Fenway Big Air
Fenway Big Air
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Fenway Park will host some of the world’s best snowboarders in the one-of-a-kind Big Air at Fenway, live on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra on Thursday night.

Snowboard big air riders will descend from a jump that’s four times higher than the Green Monster inside the hallowed Boston Red Sox home.

The finalists include U.S. Olympic slopestyle champion Sage Kotsenburg and women’s Winter X Games champion Spencer O’Brien of Canada. U.S. Olympic slopestyle champion Jamie Anderson was eliminated in earlier qualifying.

Snowboard big air, like slopestyle except riders get one jump per run, will debut at the Olympics at Pyeongchang 2018.

WATCH LIVE: Big Air at Fenway — 8:30 p.m. ET

Big Air at Fenway continues with ski big air Friday at 9 p.m. ET on NBCSN and Live Extra.

World Anti-Doping Agency investigates Kenya

Kenya
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The World Anti-Doping Agency says Kenya is being investigated for breaching the global anti-doping code.

WADA says an independent compliance review committee will now evaluate Kenya and make a recommendation to WADA’s board on whether the country should be declared non-compliant with the code.

WADA says it asked Kenyan authorities to show commitment to setting up a national anti-doping agency, but “we have not yet received the details nor the assurances we need from Kenya and, therefore, this is now a matter for our independent compliance process.”

Although being declared non-compliant is unlikely to bring sanctions for athletes, it would be another embarrassment for the East African country, which is under severe scrutiny for its doping record.

WADA expects a decision on Kenya’s status in a few weeks.

MORE: Kenya banned athletes allege doping bribery