Going For Gold! Olympic Hockey's Final Four

joel kirsteinCorrespondent IFebruary 26, 2010

VANCOUVER, BC - FEBRUARY 23:  Goalie Roberto Luongo #1 of Canada tends goal during the ice hockey Men's Qualification Playoff game between Germany and Canada on day 12 of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics at UBC Thunderbird Arena on February 23, 2010 in Vancouver, Canada.  (Photo by Scott Audette-Pool/Getty Images)
Pool/Getty Images

With the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Hockey tournament's final four set to square off on Friday in the semi-finals, great goal tending is looming even larger than most have expected. They will be remembered as the games of the goalie.

The next big test that Team Canada faces against Slovakia is going up against Jaroslav Halak. He has been the big reason the Montreal Canadiens remain in the play off picture and was a big factor for Slovakia knocking off the defending Gold Medal champs Sweden, and advancing to the semi-finals. The more shots Halak faces, the better his record gets.

Roberto Luongo seems to be cashing in on all his potential at the right time. Team Canada cannot win Olympic gold unless Luongo gets even better the next two games...
The hometown Vancouver Canuck favorite has a shut out and has given up only five goals in three games.

Team USA is backstopped by the white hot play of Ryan Miller, who can single-handily steal the gold medal for an American squad that is getting better every game. If Team Canada chokes and doesn't win gold on home ice, the tipping point was Ryan Miller. KILLER MILLER is the real deal. and if his play doesn't define "Stepping Up" nothing else does. It's Miller Time!

But the US will have their work cut out for them against the best goalie they'll face so far, Finland's Miikka Kiprusoff. The Calgary Flame All-Star shut out a talented Czech team on 31 shots. In the past, the Finns used to serve as a warm up for the likes of powerhouses such as Czechoslovakia, the USSR, and hated rival Sweden. Not anymore! Finland is a team to be respected with fire power to spare.

Few recall that the final chapter of "The Miracle On Ice" 30 years ago in Lake Placid saw the US beat Finland to capture the gold medal. The Finns haven't forgotten...

In an earlier article,  http://bleacherreport.com/articles/347026-game-on-going-for-olympic-hockey-gold  I outlined what the top teams needed to do to go for gold. I picked the US and Canada as favorites for the gold with Finland as the dark horse. All four teams are where they are thanks mainly to the men between the pipes. Game On!