That sweet revenge that American hockey fans have been yearning for since Vancouver in 2010? Well, it’ll have to wait until 2018 in South Korea because Friday just wasn’t the Americans’ day in Sochi.
A second-period tip-in from Jamie Benn proved to be the death knell as Canada smothered the United States into submission, 1-0, with a masterful defensive performance and advanced to Sunday’s gold medal game against Sweden, which topped Finland in the other Olympic semifinal.
The loss was a bitter pill for the Americans, who, despite 36 superb saves from goalie Jonathan Quick, once again fell short to our neighbors from the Great White North.
Coming into the game, the question was whether or not the Canadians, who had only six goals from forwards in their previous four games, could muster enough offense to keep up with an American juggernaut that had averaged five goals a game n the tournament.
Turns out the Canadians did get just enough offense because their defense suffocated the Americans at almost every turn.
The Americans had a few solid chances in the first 10 minutes of the contest, including a wonderful Carey Price glove save on defenseman John Carlson off a rush. But after that, the Canadians were stuck to them like super glue.
Almost every time a U.S. player touched or tried to rush the puck up ice, a player in a red maple leaf-adorned sweater was there to meet and pressure him. It was even that way when the U.S. was on a power play. There was nowhere to move the puck and the Americans were forced to keep the puck to the outside and out of the high-scoring areas.
Even when the Americans rushed into the offensive zone, it seemed like they were always outnumbered and silenced by Canadian defenders, specifically backchecking forwards that were able to match the speed of the American forwards and make things that much more difficult for the Americans.
It was an even more impressive shutdown performance by Canada when you consider how fast the pace of the game was. It was insanely fast up-and-down play throughout the entire game. There were barely any breaks to catch some breath, which made for exciting hockey despite the score.
As far as the scoring goes, Canada had sustained momentum at the first intermission despite a scoreless game.
That momentum finally paid off less than two minutes into the second when Benn tipped home a silky slap-pass that Jay Bouwmeester was able to thread to him from the point.
That’s when the smothering Canadian defense really took over and limited any legitimate chances the Americans had to tie the game.
When the Americans did have a legitimate chance on net, Price, who had 31 saves in the shutout, had the answer and his teammates then quickly cleared the puck out of harm’s way. The Americans barely had any sustained pressure. It was one and done.
Quick was phenomenal in the game and kept the U.S. in it. He deserved a better fate than he got.
As a consolation, the U.S. will take on Kimmo Timonen and the rest of Team Finland on Saturday in the bronze medal game.
Hey, any Olympic hardware is good Olympic hardware.
If it makes you feel any better, there’s only six more days until Flyers hockey comes back and all that sweet Nike USA Hockey gear will be like half-off in a few days.