Photo: AP Photo/Julio Cortez, Pool
By Jen D’Amico
Irrespective of the fact that a ‘W’ means a ticket to the Gold Medal Game, whenever these two teams match up, bragging rights and respect are also up for grabs. These are some of the best players in the world playing against each other; a total of 24 of them from both sides returning from the 2010 Vancouver Games. Throw in a rivalry nearly 100 years old, and we have a semifinal game that promises not to disappoint. Both teams have gone unbeaten through 4 games in Sochi.
Canada has focused on deploying its defensive talent this tournament, scoring only 3 goals in 4 games. Some may argue that they haven’t met “Canadian Par” in the Games thus far, but it is a strategy that has gotten them to the semifinal match, so who are we to judge. USA on the other hand has scored 19 goals and focused on their speed to drive the net.
Both Red and White came out in the first fired up, putting Team Canada goalie Price and Team USA goalie Quick to work right away. The first 5 minutes of play were physical and strong from both sides, but then it seemed to get choppy and also included a 9 minute lull where there were no shots on goal for USA, including 2 minutes of power play time. The first ended with 16 SOG’s for Canada and 11 for Team USA.
Canada scores the first goal with a deflection goal from Jamie Benn (who was the only one to make the team that wasn’t invited to the Canadian summer camp) early in the second. Followed up by a slashing call on Canadian Ryan Getzlaf puts USA on the power play, but they failed to drive the net enough to produce a point. Team USA continued to struggle in their zone half way through the second, and Quick came out of the crease with a huge save with 5:55 left in the period. Surprisingly, we didn’t see any real roughness amongst the teams until a scuffle in the Canadian zone ends up with a third USA power play opportunity with 4 minutes left on the clock. Canada continues to excel with their defensive game, shutting down any small attempt USA makes at a shot on goal. The second ends with a 1-0 lead by Team Canada, who also led the period 28-22 in shots.
USA coach Dan Bylsma made changes to 2 of the 4 lines for the third, hoping to create more of a synergy amongst the offensive players and get a score on the board. Canada came out just as dialed in as the previous 2 periods, keeping the pressure on and getting their second power play opportunity of the game. Even with a 1 man advantage after pulling Quick with 2 minutes on the board, USA comes up short and loses to Canada 1-0.
From my perspective, Canada’s defense combined with Quick’s valiant effort to keep USA in the game sums up this matchup. It was not as physical as I expected, Team USA looked scared to take chances as they were intimidated by Canada’s swarming defense, and spent most of the game skating and shooting the puck from the outside. Definitely not a game deserving USA a chance at a Gold Medal.
Sweden and Canada will get a day of rest until they duke it out for Gold Sunday at 7:00 EST, while USA and Finland will face tomorrow at 10:00 EST for the Bronze.