Canada Beats United States in Olympic Semifinal from Sochi, Will Play for Gold

Mark SchipperContributor IIIFebruary 21, 2014

Canada celebrates their 1-0 victory over Team USA in the men's semifinal ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Matt Slocum/Associated Press

For the second straight Olympics, Canada halted the United States' quest for a hockey gold medal.

Last time, it was 2010 on the Vancouver coast of the Pacific Ocean when Sydney Crosby scored an overtime winner in the gold-medal game to send Canada to the top of the podium with a 3-2 victory. The Americans settled for silver.

In 2014, it was on the Black Sea shores of Sochi, Russia, that the Canadians shut out the Americans 1-0 in the tournament's second semifinal to advance to the gold-medal round to face Sweden. The Americans will have to take heart and find satisfaction in playing Finland Saturday for the bronze medal.

"I thought Canada controlled the pace of the play, I thought their defense was outstanding and there was never a serious flurry of threats by the USA in the third period," said Mike Milbury, NBC Analyst, after the game.

Despite the close score and the fact that one great shot would have knotted the game for the United States, it was a dominating Canadian performance. A powerful and near-flawless defensive showing—in tandem with a game-long fast-break blitz on offense—allowed the team from "up north" to control the game against their archrivals to the south.

"Team Canada just shut down USA offensively," said NBC television play-by-play analyst Eddie Olczyk. "They never gave them any sustained quality chances, they just stymied the offense."

It was at its core an accurate statement, though the Americans fought for chances until the bitter end and managed to put 31 shots on Canadian goalkeeper Carey Price, who put on a magnificent performance between the pipes. 

The game was largely a high-octane, clean-burning drag race, with both teams blazing up and down the rink performing incredibly intricate and skilled maneuvers with the puck on their blades. Both goaltenders were unbeatable for essentially the entire 60 minutes.   

The Canadians layered their defense in such a way that the United States could not manage more than one shot on many of its possessions. Often that one shot came from the perimeter with several defenders between the puck and Price. The goal-scoring red zone in the slots between the circles was closed off like a no-fly zone by the Canadians.

"It seems like we had a tough time sustaining any pressure in their end. They outnumbered us in their zone, came up with it quick and, as we expected, they are quick in transition," said forward Ryan Callahan to rink-side analyst Pierre McGuire.

"They are a talented group. You see the skill they have and how they play, so it's a tough one to take."

This was in diametric opposition to the Canadian offense, which manufactured chance after golden chance against the United States, battering goalie Jonathan Quick with 37 dangerous, difficult shots. He turned aside 36 of them, many in magnificent fashion. 

Quick, in fact, may have been the player of the game in the losing effort, sprawling over the goal crease, making glove saves, kick saves, blocker saves and even desperation flailing saves that again and again kept Canada from pushing the game beyond America's reach.

Canada's goal was scored at 18:19 of the second period by its monster line of Ryan Getzlaf, Jamie Benn and Corey Perry, who along with a supercharged Chris Kunitz, were too much for the Americans to handle. 

Julio Cortez/Associated Press

Benn tipped in a pass struck hard enough toward the middle of the ice by defenseman Jay Bouwmeester that it looked like a snap shot. It was perhaps the only play of the game where Quick was fooled, reacting to Bouwmeester's stick as if a scoring attempt was coming at him when it went low and hard toward a cutting Benn instead. Benn just put his stick blade hard onto the ice and re-directed the shot up high over the goalie. 

"I have a lot of fun playing with those guys back in the NHL," said Benn, who had sweat running down his face in streams, to McGuire between periods. "We have great chemistry off the ice, we're always hanging out, and I love playing with those guys."

Crosby, despite not registering any points, played a fantastic, all-out game for his Canadian teammates. In typical fashion, he seemed to be everywhere at once, handling the puck along the back-boards, deftly swiping at a rebound with a defenseman hanging off of him and setting up teammates with precision passes through traffic.

Forward Jeff Carter was another Canadian the Americans could not seem to corral. The big Los Angeles Kings forward entered the offensive zone regularly with a head of steam built up and the moves to blow by defensemen. Carter peppered Quick with shots and greatly assisted Canada in maintaining 60 minutes of fatiguing pressure on the United States.

For the Americans, Zach Parise, Patrick Kane and Phil Kessel just could not find a way to beat Price, though it was not from lack of trying. At one point, Kane streaked into the zone, toe-dragging the puck away from a defender before leaving it to Parise, who fired a wrist shot that was stopped by Price.

Parise had another tip opportunity in front of the net that he could not get up into the air and Price smothered. At another moment, Kessel fired a shot that was tipped wickedly toward the net by forward James van Riemsdyk, but again Price ate it up.

Both teams had the afterburners opened wide all night and put on a tense and memorable show for the sold-out crowd at Bolshoy Ice Dome. 

The Canadians will play Sweden two days from now for their ninth gold medal and second in a row. The Swedes will be chasing their third gold medal and first since 2006 in Torino, Italy.

Matt Slocum/Associated Press

With Canada coming off the win over the team many thought was the tournament's best in the United States, it will either be worn down and depleted or energized to finish the work. For the efficient Swedes, it is always all business, and they will have everything Canada wants on the final day of hockey from Sochi.