Canada Advances to Gold Medal Showdown with Russia
Canada had won games with their special teams so far in the tournament, but tonight they won one at full strength. The team allowed a short-handed goal and a power-play goal, but kept Team USA in check during 5-on-5 situations, and they left the Metro Centre with a narrow win over the Americans, 3-2.
The victory sends Canada through to the gold medal game against Russia and assures them of at least the silver. The loss puts the Americans into the bronze medal game against Finland. Canada broke a 2-2 tie when Jeff Woywitka found himself with the puck and all alone in front of the USA goal at 11:40 of the third. The last nine minutes featured many American scoring chances, but they failed to pull the trigger.
The game was close throughout, as the United States was the first team to stand up to Canada’s physical presence. Before the game USA coach Lou Vairo made a tongue in cheek remark that his team would likely lose ‘eight or nine nothing’ in a mockery of the chance his team had been given.
Vairo’s team did not submit to the hostile crowd or the lopsided predictions, and actually looked to outplay Canada despite being outshot 42-15. The shots on goal are not the best indicator of the way the game unfolded because the Americans had many great scoring chances where they failed to get a shot off. Team USA had Canada reeling in its own zone at various times as the Canadians often played with the puck beneath their feet. "It just wouldn’t sit for us tonight," said Nathan Paetsch, who scored Canada’s first goal. "All night we couldn’t get the puck to sit."
The game featured many penalties, including four partial two-man advantages. Referee Danny Kurmann of Switzerland endured the wrath of the Haligonian crowd at the end of the second period when he sent three Canadian players—all defencemen--to the penalty box within 40 seconds. He atoned for it by doing almost the same thing to the Americans in the third.
After the game both sides were visibly frustrated with the calls but both were also professional enough not to talk about it. "I’m just glad we were able to kill of the penalties," said Carlo Colaiacovo, "after they scored the first [power play goal] they still had almost two minutes. That was our defining moment, killing it off."Canadian player of the game Derek Roy and his line of Gregory Campbell and Joffrey Lupul established themselves as Canada’s most dependable line tonight, earning chance after chance through hard work. The United States countered with Dustin Brown, Zach Parise, and Eric Nystrom, who were far and away crisper than anyone else on this night, connecting with tape-on-tape passes.
Both teams received impeccable goaltending, as Marc-Andre Fleury and Robert Goepfert duelled all night. For his 39-save performance Goepfert was awarded Team USA player-of-the-game. "I tried to play my game tonight," he said afterward. "I tried to ignore all the critics before the game that said we didn’t have a chance. I knew we did."
The second period saw Canada take a 2-1 lead on a power-play goal by Pierre-Marc Bouchard, but the period was, for the most part, intense but sloppy. The period ended with a flurry, but not of the kind Canadian fans have grown accustomed to. Brendan Bell, Nathan Paetsch, and Steve Eminger were all whistled for penalties in the final minute which put the Americans on an extended two-man power-play for more than three minutes in total.
The first period lacked the crispness that fans expected from both teams, and the period ended deadlocked at one. Canada had the first scoring chance of the game at 2:20 when Pierre-Marc Bouchard charged the net and Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau gobbled up his rebound, but was robbed by Robert Goebfort. Exactly one minute later Joeffrey Lupul and Matt Stajan rein acted the play but once again Goepfort was up to the challenge. Canada finally solved Goebfort at 4:24 when Paetsch converted on a point shot that was set-up by Kyle Wellwood. Goepfort had no chance on the play as the puck careened off at least one stick before finding the twine.
The first US scoring chance came at 5:27 when Marc-Andre Fleury robbed Christopher Higgins on a partial break. The save instigated a "Fleury" chant that echoed through the pulsating arena. After the game captain Scottie Upshall cited Fleury as the reason Canada won, "I don’t think we would be here without that guy in between the pipes. It’s easy to play when you know you’ve got someone that dependable back there."
The Americans looked undisciplined in the first period as Ryan Kessler took a goaltender interference penalty, and Goepfert took a delay of game penalty. The Americans turned the vaunted Canadian power-play on end, however, and capitalized on an error. Fleury tried to play the puck, but. Nystrom and Parise found themselves with the puck on their sticks following a bad breakout attempt and Nystrom promptly knotted the score at 1-1. After the game Nystrom spoke about the chances, "They were there. We just couldn’t capitalize. The chances were definitely there, though."
Canadian fans got what they were waiting for at 11:53 when Jordin Tootoo catapulted himself into an American player along the boards. Unfortunately for Canada, the referee saw the play clearly and gave Tootoo two minutes for boarding.
It was a strange game for Tootoo, who was involved in a bizarre incident in the third when it appeared he hurt Mark Stuart with one of his patented body checks but then fell victim to a slash by Stuart and another by Patrick O’Sullivan, who was penalized. Tootoo appeared to injure his wrist on the play but came back to assist on the game-winning goal four minutes later.
Discussing the upcoming gold medal confrontation with Russia, the Canadians were very humble, but forward Matt Stajan did offer an opinion: "The game with Russia will be a great game because they are a great team. But don’t forget, we’re a great team, too."
The bronze medal game will be played Sunday at 4pm Atlantic and the gold medal game at 8:10pm Atlantic both here at the Halifax Metro Centre. Check back then for up-to-the-minute game updates and comprehensive post-game analysis at www.canadianhockey.ca.
Game Night Reporter
Canada Wins 3-2
Starting off the third period killing penalties is always difficult, and that was the challenge Team Canada faced. Fleury fended off the pucks for 1:06, and then was beat by a slider by Ryan Kesler between his legs.
There was an exciting pace throughout the third, as both teams exchanged penalties and power plays, relying on outstanding goaltending from both sides.
The game winning goal was scored for Canada by Jeff Woywitka at 11:40, and Matthew Stajan and Jordin Tootoo picking up assists.
The USA was outshot 42-15, and the final score was 3-2 for Canada. Team Canada will face Team Russia on Sunday for the gold medal.
Game Night Reporter
2-1 Canada After Second Period
Team USA came out strong in the second period, working the Canadian defence, looking for mistakes. Goepfert remained strong, stopping a 3 on 2 early in the period. Fleury was looking a little cold, not having seen too many shots in the first, and fighting the flu.
The only goal scored in the period came on a Canadian power play at 17:26, after controlling the puck for most of the penalty. Pierre-Marc Bouchard tipped in the puck from behind the net, after a pass around from Marc-Alexandre Parenteau and Carlo Colaiacovo.
Canada will start the third 3 men down, with penalties to Brendan Bell, Nathan Paetsch and a questionable call to Steve Eminger, who recieved a ten minute misconduct for checking from behind.
Game Night Reporter
1-1 After One Period
Long-time rivals Canada and USA are at each others' throats again. Team Canada is getting outstanding scoring chances, forcing USA goalie Robert Goepfert to stand on his head. Marc-Andre Fleury, Canada's goalie, hasn't been worked too hard, facing only 5 shots on goal. Jordin Tootoo, known for his physical play, threw some big hits and served some time in the box.
Canada opened the scoring at 4:24 with a goal by Nathan Paetsch. A USA goal was disallowed at 7:17, due to a high stick. However, Eric Nystrom capitalized on a shot at 9:21, tying the score at one.
As often as we talk about the crowd being so important to the game, it still rings true. This evening, both teams are feeding off the energy in the rink, allowing for an exciting game of hockey at both ends of the rink.
More to come.
Game Night Reporter