By Frank Pingue
SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Sweden upset 2010 bronze medalists Finland and Switzerland shut out hosts Russia to reach the semi-finals of the women's ice hockey tournament at the Sochi Games on Saturday.
The semis will be played on Monday with the two nations taking on the sport's two superpowers. The Swiss play Canada, who have won the last three gold medals, while Sweden go up against the United States.
Trailing 1-0 heading into the final period, Sweden put three goals past Finnish goalie Noora Raty, who had proved tough to beat during the preliminary round, before scoring an empty-netter in the final minute for a 4-2 win.
"It's the best feeling in the world. They are our biggest rivals ever. That's off the ice as well," Sweden's Emma Eliasson told reporters.
"I live very close to Finland so I know what the rivalry means. We always want to beat them. To beat them today was pretty amazing."
For Raty, whose stellar play in the group stage included a 39-save performance in a 3-0 loss to Canada, the game marked her last in women's hockey after she had announced plans to retire after Sochi.
Switzerland went winless during the group stage but advanced due to a new setup that gives the top four-ranked teams an automatic quarter-finals berth. They beat Russia 2-0 on goals by Stefanie Marty and Lara Stadler.
The Swiss, who are now guaranteed their best finish in women's Olympic ice hockey, also got yet another big game from goalie Florence Schelling, who made 41 saves for the shutout.
"We knew they were going to come out strong and they had all the people in the stands cheering for them," said Schelling. "In the first five minutes, they hit the post then they had two more shots hit the post. Luck was on our side.
"Personally, I just had a good feeling that they weren't going to score today."
(Editing by Robert Woodward)