Slovakians Close But No Cigar: Canada-USA Play for Olympic Hockey Gold

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Slovakians Close But No Cigar: Canada-USA Play for Olympic Hockey Gold
Harry How/Getty Images

 

The day after the Canadian women's hockey team got in trouble for smoking cigars and drinking champagne and beer on the ice, the men had a close call at the end of their game against Slovakia.

Newspapers across Canada carried pictures of the national women's hockey team celebrating its 2-0 win over the United States. The International Olympic Committee was not pleased when their party spilled out of their locker room and back onto the ice.

The Canadian women later offered an apology.

The Slovaks shocked Russia and surprised Sweden. With a chance at Olympic gold on the line, the Slovaks came close to pulling off the ultimate upset.

Team Canada won the game and will go to the men's Olympic hockey final against the USA. They earned a 3-2 semifinal win, but Slovakia came close, especially as the game wound down to a tense, dramatic close.

Patrick Marleau struck first, tipping in a shot from the point by Shea Weber. Then a shot by Chris Pronger made its way through traffic in front of the net for the second goal. 

With just over three minutes left to play in the second period, Ryan Getzlaff scored on the power play, backhanding in a rebound off a shot by Corey Perry.

Canada was leading 3-0 in the third period, but Slovakia lulled them to sleep, using the neutral zone trap, then struck with two quick goals to make it a game in the final frame. The Slovaks goals were scored by Lubomir Visnovsky and Michal Handzus.

The Slovaks swarmed Canada's goal in a mad final minute, and Pavol Demitra came close to scoring the tying goal in the dying seconds, but Robert Luongo, in net for Team Canada, made a great save to win the game.

It would have been Slovakia's third major upset of the tournament.

It was close, but—no cigars!

Canada faces Team USA on Sunday for the gold medal at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver. It's a re-match as the teams met earlier in the tournament, with the Americans upsetting the favoured team on their home turf.

Since then, Team Canada has come together, beaten the top-ranked team from Russia, with Ovechkin and Malkin, and will be a different group than the one Team USA defeated  the last time they met.

The Americans, meanwhile, are hoping for another miracle on ice, giving them the gold.

My prediction? Team USA will win the silver medal, Canada will get the gold, and that will be great for hockey in the USA and the NHL. But will the NHL participate in the next Winter Olympics, in Russia? 

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