The tilt between Team USA and Team Canada on Friday was no ordinary hockey game. Not only was it a semifinal with the winner advancing to the gold medal contest, but it was also a battle between two bitter rivals. It was a game between two of the world’s hockey powerhouses and arguably the two best squads in the tournament.
The Americans were aiming to earn well-deserved respect from the hockey world as the underdogs while Canada looked to preserve their well-earned reputation as the top hockey nation on Earth. In a rematch of the 2010 gold medal game, the Canadians once again pulled through with a victory and are now on the brink of earning their third gold medal in the last four Olympics.
Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn scored the lone goal in a 1-0 decision. The tally came early in the second period on a nice feed from St. Louis Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester who found Benn right in front of the net.
It wasn’t the star-studded offense, headlined by Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews, that won the match for Canada. Instead, it was the lack of offense generated by Team USA that wound up costing the Americans the game. They fired 31 shots on net but couldn’t beat goaltender Carey Price, and only a few of those shots were from quality scoring areas. USA failed to convert on any of its three power plays, despite coming into the game with the third-ranked power play unit at 27.3 percent.
The Canadians boast the best defense in the tournament with superstars Shea Weber, Drew Doughty and Duncan Keith patrolling the blue line, so a low-scoring game was expected. But a shutout against a high-powered offense? There aren’t many who saw that coming. USA potted five goals against a solid Czech Republic squad in the quarterfinals and managed to score a whopping seven goals on Slovakia during the preliminaries.
With elite offensive talent on the roster in Phil Kessel, Patrick Kane and Zach Parise, the team should have been able to find the score sheet. Kessel’s line with Toronto Maple Leafs teammate James van Riemsdyk and San Jose Sharks pivot Joe Pavelski combined for 18 points over USA’s first four games, but they were shut down completely against Canada. The squad’s third line of Dustin Brown, David Backes and Ryan Callahan, which had been highly effective in wins over Russia and the Czechs, didn’t even register a single shot on net.
It was a demoralizing way to end what looked like a promising gold medal run for Team USA. They’ll face Finland in the bronze medal game on Saturday. If they win, it’ll be the first bronze medal for USA men’s hockey since 1936. Meanwhile, Canada and Sweden will battle for gold on Sunday in a rematch of the 1994 gold medal contest.