Friday, May 19, 2006

Some Sightseeing, Some Skating and something called the Semi Finals!

Team Canada’s young standard bearers (and a few old warhorses showing them the way) continue to enjoy the sights of Riga, as they prepare for Saturday’s semi final match up with Sweden at the World Hockey Championships.

Friday is a day off for all teams at the World Championships, those that have fallen from the tournament can make their travel arrangements home, those that battle on in the semi finals make their final preparations for what they hope will be two games of importance to come over the weekend.

Canada advanced to the final four on Wednesday when they defeated Slovakia 4-1, a match that left the Slovak team wondering what hit them by the end of the 60 minutes. The Slovaks had held pretty close to the Canadians for a good portion of the game, despite being outplayed for the most of it, they refused to die at least until the Canadians put back to back goals together in less than 90 seconds. It was at that point that they immediately seemed to deflate their opponents and set their course for Saturday’s semi final showdown (1:15 pm, 10:15 am TSN) with the Swedes.

Canada with its rather youngish line up, has been finding success with a number of players. None more so than Sidney Crosby, Brad Boyes and Patrice Bergeron, who continue to impress all who watch with their offensive tools. The three Canadian forwards seem to be puck magnets when they are on the ice, a clinic in real time for many of those that have had to play against them through this tournament.

Saturday’s game will pit the rising young Canadian squad, against the 2005 World and 2006 Olympic Champions. The Swedes are aiming for a milestone that hasn’t been reached since the World Cup and Olympics were played in the same year, that of winning both tournaments in the same year. It’s a bit of history that the Canadians hope to derail at the Arena Riga.

The other semi final game takes place prior to the Canada/Sweden showdown, that one will pit the Czech Republic up against the Finns. The Czechs advanced to the final four on the strength of a 4-3 victory over the Russians. In what seems to have the same intensity of a Canada/USA blood feud, the two teams did battle for sixty regulation minutes and then another eight minutes of over time before the Czechs sent the Russians packing for home. What remains to be seen is if the Czechs have anything left when they face the Finns, such was the speed and passion of the overtime win for the Czech Republic.

The winners of the two semi finals will meet on Sunday in the Gold Medal game, the losers will play prior to that for the Bronze. Canada is hoping that by the end of play Saturday, they’re making plans for the second game on Sunday and a chance to bring the Gold Medal back home with them.

If they keep to the game plan they’ve used thus far, there’s a very good chance of that coming to pass. It’s a pretty impressive result for a team of youngsters, who for the most part last saw their international battles back in the junior ranks.

Whatever it is that Marc Habscheid is telling them it’s working, only two more games to make it a successful European Vacation.

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