Just four teams remain in the Winter Olympics’ men’s hockey tournament, but all eyes are focused on the United States and Canada.
After the two teams met for a monumental preliminary round matchup that few people will forget, a meeting in the gold medal game is now a very good possibility.
Team USA will take on Finland tomorrow at 12 p.m. EST. in the first semifinal game—both teams shut out their opponents 2-0 in their quarterfinal games.
Canada will be going up against a highly underrated Slovakian squad. Canada blew past Russia 7-3 in their quarterfinal matchup, while Slovakia knocked off the defending champs, Sweden, in their quarterfinal game.
The United States upset the heavy favorite, Canada, in the preliminary round with a 5-3 win that left many of the Canadian faithful scratching their heads.
U.S. goaltender Ryan Miller made 42 saves in an incredible effort that saw him turn away attempt after attempt late in the third period.
“It’s probably one of the biggest games I’ve ever played,” Miller told the Associated Press after Sunday’s amazing win over Canada. “When things happened we responded. We didn’t get nervous or anxious. We kept playing.”
However, most critics of the Canadian team have been silenced since the loss. In their last two games Canada has posted 81 shots to go along with 15 goals.
Canada’s dominant 7-3 victory over a very talented Russian team makes it seem that they are back on track and playing for the gold.
“We just wanted to step on the gas pedal from the drop of the puck,” Chris Pronger told the Associated Press after their huge win over Russia on Wednesday.
But there is still a major task at hand for both squads in their semifinal matchups.
Finland has a well-balanced offense, veteran leadership at every position, and a hot goaltender in Miikka Kiprusoff, who has surrendered just four goals in three games and leads all goalies with a .947 save percentage—all of these factors will make things extremely tough on the young U.S. team.
Canada will also have its hands full in their semifinal game against Slovakia.
Hometown hero Pavol Demitra, had three points in Slovakia’s upset win over Sweden. Demitra and teammate Marian Hossa are both tied for the Olympic lead in points with seven. Canada will have to do all it can to put a stop to the Slovak’s run.
“It’s always try to break their will, that’s what you try to do out there, you’re trying to break the other team,” Canadian forward Ryan Getzlaf told the Associated Press on Wednesday.
Anything is a possibility with Miller leading the way for the U.S. and a Canadian offense which has truly come to life in the last two games.
“We want to win a medal—a gold medal,” American defenseman Ryan Suter told the Associated Press. “We’re going to do everything we can.”
It seems destiny has scheduled a date for the United States and Canada to meet on Sunday in Vancouver for the gold medal.