Saturday, February 27, 2010

USA, Canada to Meet for the Gold

The US Olympic hockey team throttled Finland on Friday afternoon 6-1 to give itself a spot in Sunday's gold medal game in Vancouver. The opposition in that game will be provided by a familiar foe.Canada held off Slovakia 3-2 later that day to take the other spot in the game. Sunday's matchup will be a rematch of last Sunday's contest which saw the US beat Canada 5-3 and set off alarm bells throughout the Dominion. The Canucks have now won three consecutive games to right the ship.

In the US game on Friday, the barrage started early with Ryan Malone's (St. Cloud State U., Tampa Bay Lightning) goal just over two minutes into the game. By the 13 minute mark of the opening frame, the US had received additional goals from Zach Parise (U. of North Dakota, New Jersey Devils), Erik Johnson (U. of Minnesota, St. Louis Blues), Patrick Kane (Chicago Blackhawks), Kane again, and Paul Stastny (U. of Denver, Colorado Avalanche). By the time it was all said and done, the US led a stunned Finnish squad 6-0 and cruised to the victory thereon.

Ryan Miller (Michigan State U., Buffalo Sabres) didn't have to work too hard and stopped all 18 shots he faced. Tim Thomas (Boston Bruins) played the third period for his first Olympic action and allowed one goal on seven shots.

The US team moved to 5-0 in the tournament and has lost some of the underdog edge. With the elimination of Russia and Sweden, arguably two of the tourney's favorites, the US's medal expectations increased rapidly, and the team played games against Switzerland and Finland with the swagger and confidence of a favorite. Still, they will be heavy underdogs on Sunday night against Canada.

The pressure on Canada to win on Sunday will be immense. They were expected to be in this game and have stumbled many times in the tournament thus far. Still, all will be forgotten with a gold medal. To do so on home ice will cause the expectations for the Canucks to be sky-high.

This is a good spot for the US to be in. Although the #1 seed in the medal round, the US coaches can play up the "nobody expects us to win" moniker for Sunday's game, and the Yanks can certainly play like there is nothing to lose. A silver medal will be a fine result for a squad which was not expected to do much in the Olympics. Still, the Americans have played five very good games in this tournament and will have to ask Miller to potentially stand on his head one more time. He hasn't had to do so since the Canada game last Sunday, so hopefully he's up to the task. The hope will be that Canada will grip the sticks a bit too tight, and one thinks that if the US can withstand the game's first ten minutes, the advantage should swing its way.

This is the matchup the Canadians have wanted since last Sunday. The Americans have a great opportunity to absolutely ruin the Canadian Olympics Sunday night, and let's hope they're up to the task.

No comments:

Post a Comment