The most heated rivalry in women's hockey commences once more on Wednesday night, and it promises to be the game of the 2018 Winter Olympics with the gold medal on the line.
Canada will try to knock off the U.S. for the second time in these Games, as both sides cruised to a rematch in the final in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
The undisputed top two teams in the world have an eventful history between them, as either the Canadians or Americans have appeared in every gold-medal game since women's hockey was introduced as an Olympic event in 1998. The two played each other in four of the five matches.
Yet that is not the only noteworthy game on the upcoming slate.
The men's bracket will feature a pair of matchups in the semifinals on Friday that include known contenders and a surprise Germany squad.
How can you catch these must-watch Olympic showdowns? Be prepared to either stay up late or set your alarm early for live action.
2018 Olympic Hockey Thursday Schedule
Matchup: Canada vs. U.S.
Time: 11:10 p.m. ET (Starts on Wednesday ET)
Live Stream: NBCOlympics.com
2018 Olympic Hockey Friday Schedule
Matchup No. 1: Czech Republic vs. Olympic Athletes from Russia at 2:40 a.m. ET
Matchup No. 2: Canada vs. Germany at 7:10 a.m. ET
Live Stream: NBCOlympics.com
While the Canada-U.S. rivalry has produced some wonderful Olympic competition, the Canadians have had the upper hand when it matter most.
Team USA won the first-ever women's gold medal, but since then, Canada has gone on to claim four straight titles. The 1998 blemish is Canada's last loss at the Olympics, as it is in the midst of a remarkable 24-game winning streak.
The Olympics have been a tough spot for the Americans to break through, despite them winning the last three world championships, including eight of the last 10. It appears the U.S. is not thinking about that success right now, with the focus on ending its string of Olympic disappointments.
"You train four years for this one game," Team USA forward Monique Lamoureux-Morando said, per NBC Sports' Scott Charles. "This is what we worked for, the chance to win."
The 2014 gold-medal game between the two still burns in the minds of team USA's veterans, with Canada scoring late and then winning in overtime.
"I think about it every day," said forward Amanda Kessel, per Karen Crouse and Matthew Futterman of the New York Times. "I'm getting fired up now just talking about it."
The two current teams are also familiar with each other, as they played five times in exhibition games over the fall, with Canada winning three times, per Seth Berkman of the New York Times.
The first matchup between these two in the preliminary round looked promising for Team USA, but it just could not get the result. The Americans outshot Canada 45-23, but Canadian goaltender Genevieve Lacasse was outstanding in the 2-1 win. Outside of a seven-minute stretch where Canada was able to score twice in the second period, the U.S. controlled play.
Otherwise, Team USA has outscored its other opponents 13-1 en route to the finals, while Canada holds a 14-1 margin. However, this looks like the year the U.S. can get it done.
The Americans are the younger, faster team, with 13 first-time Olympians to team with established stars Kessel and Hilary Knight. They have been able to suffocate and pin every team played so far, including Canada.
The Canadians may have a decided advantage in net, but they looked slow and overmatched in the teams' first meeting, of which NBC provided full highlights. Unless Canada gets another stonewall performance in net, the U.S. should be able score a few more on late Wednesday night/Thursday morning. Look for the motivated Americans to take a late two-goal lead before popping in an empty-net tally to win the gold.
Germany became the Cinderella story of the Olympics on Wednesday morning, stunning gold-medal contender Sweden 4-3 thanks to Patrick Reimer's overtime winner.
TSN's Ian Mendes noted that this volatility was one of the bright sides of having no NHL players around, as smaller countries had the chance to upset traditional powerhouses:
Now whether the Germans can do it again is another story.
No country possesses the kind of hockey depth Canada has, with notable names like Rene Bourque, Mason Raymond and Derek Roy leading the way. This ability to seamlessly roll four lines is the Canadians' signature style, as it allows them to wear down the opposition over the course of three periods.
However, Canada has not been a dominant side in Pyeongchang since a convincing 5-1 over Switzerland to start the tournament. The Canadians dropped a 3-2 shootout decision with Czech Republic before scoring just five goals in their next two games with Finland and Republic of Korea.
While shutting out a tough team like Finland is an impressive feat, it seems the offense has disappeared a bit from Canada in recent play.
This should give the Germans at least a sliver of hope to repeat another Olympic upset, as they have steadily improved throughout the tournament. They responded to a 5-2 thumping from Finland to start the Olympics by dropping a close 1-0 decision to the Swedes before notching an impressive win over a talented Switzerland squad in the quarterfinals.
A team with only two players with significant NHL experience in Christian Ehrhoff and Marcel Goc is bound to have trouble keeping up with Canada. Still, expect a close game early on before the Canadians score a couple of late goals to seal a trip to the final.
As for the other semifinal, the Russian team could have a tough fight to advance.
Czech Republic has quietly been one of the best teams in the tournament. It has won all four games thus far, including marquee triumphs over Canada and the U.S.
This may come as a bit of a surprise considering the Czechs were not thought of as a legitimate contender two weeks ago, via The Hockey News:
For a team lacking any relevant former NHL players outside of Martin Erat and Jiri Sekac, the Czechs have played a cohesive style that allows them to attack while still keeping a strong defensive front.
They are certainly going to need it against a loaded Russia squad that has scored 18 goals since an opening stumble against Slovakia.
No other team even remotely rivals the skill and starpower of the Russian team, which sends out former NHL elites Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk with other great young players like NHL blue-chip prospect Kirill Kaprizov.
Kovalchuk in particular is dominating with four goals and an array of fantastic individual efforts, which should come as no surprise since he was an all-time great scorer in the NHL, per ESPN Stats & Info:
Czech Republic should be able slow down the Russian team a bit, as it was able to frustrate Canada and the U.S. to just four goals on 53 shots. However, the same defensive style it played to beat Canada, where it was outshot 33-21, may not work against Russia.
The Russians have an ample amount of firepower to score at least once or twice, which will force the Czechs to gradually break from their shell to create chances. Unless they can score quickly, the Czechs will be vulnerable to odd-man rushes and chances from Russia due to the increased space.
Look for the Russians to capitalize early and control play the rest of the game, leading to an epic gold-medal contest with Canada.
Statistics are courtesy of Olympic.org.