SOCHI, Russia—Canada will have the opportunity to defend the gold medal it won four years ago at Vancouver, a chance it earned Friday with a thoroughly sound defensive effort that stifled a fast and prolific U.S. team in the Sochi Olympic hockey semifinals.
A second-period goal by Jamie Benn, who wasn’t invited to Canada’s Olympic orientation camp last summer but played his way onto the team, held up as the difference in a 1-0 victory by Canada at the Bolshoy Ice Dome. Benn redirected a pass from defenseman Jay Bouwmeester past a helpless Jonathan Quick and Benn’s teammates protected the lead with discipline and energy.
Canada will face Sweden for the gold medal on Sunday. Sweden defeated Finland, 2-1, in Friday’s first semifinal. The U.S. will face Finland for the bronze on Saturday.
No men’s hockey team has won two straight Olympic gold medals since the old Soviet teams in 1984 and 1988.
The U.S. and Canada had met in the 2010 championship game, won by Canada in overtime. At Sochi, they met one round earlier, and the Canadian men had some extra inspiration from their female counterparts.
The Canadian women had defeated the U.S. women for the women’s gold medal on Thursday, and Canada’s four-time champions left a note for the men’s team in Canada’s locker room. It read:
“Tonight is yours. Own the moment. We are proof that every minute matters. The podium is reserved for the brave. Earn every inch, dictate the pace. Go get em! From the Girls! :)”
In a script familiar to Kings fans, U.S. and Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick stopped 36 shots and got precious little offensive support from his teammates.
Canada's Carey Price, of the Montreal Canadiens, stopped 31 shots.
The fast pace of the first period was a distinct change for both teams, who had been dragged into slow games by opponents who couldn’t match their talent and could only hope to smother them.
But the game remained scoreless until early in the second period, when Benn redirected a pass by Bouwmeester past Quick on Canada’s 17th shot of the game. The line of Benn, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry had been strong until that point and its work was rewarded with that goal, only the eighth by a forward among the 14 it has scored in the tournament.
The goal was the second for Benn in the tournament, two more than Sidney Crosby, Rick Nash, Corey Perry and Jonathan Toews have produced.
With so many players who are teammates in the NHL playing against each other here, it was inevitable that some would collide. About three minutes in, Canada and Kings winger Jeff Carter out-muscled a defender and went in alone on Kings and U.S. goalie Quick, only to be stopped. Later in the period, Canada and San Jose Sharks winger Patrick Marleau was sent off for holding his Sharks teammate Joe Pavelski, a U.S. center.
Two characteristics that had been an advantage for the U.S. in its previous games—its size and speed—were neutralized Friday by Canada’s hard-working corps of forwards and disciplined defensemen. Canada’s penalty killers did their jobs well too, negating three U.S. advantages. U.S. center David Backes, a physical force and offensive catalyst in previous U.S. games, was invisible most of the game.
Canada and Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price came up with a number of solid saves, including one in which he went to his knees to stop Zach Parise early in the third period. He stopped 30 shots overall.
ALSO:Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun