Sunday, January 04, 2009

A never say die attitude and a lot of luck saves the Day for Canada

The night cap for Saturday night’s semi final matches at the World Junior tournament provided for yet another legendary moment for Canadian hockey, as Team Canada and Russia played beyond regulation time, through an overtime session and into a penalty shot finale to determine a winner.

In yet another memorable battle between to the two long time rivals, the Russians gave as good as they got, striking goal for goal with Canada, hit for hit, save for save sending a sold out crowd in Ottawa frequently to their feet in anticipation of another exciting twist in the normally entertaining match up of hockey skills.

Canada came within five seconds of disaster, as Russia held on to a five to four lead until the 19:55 mark of the third period, when Jordan Eberle knocked in the winning goal sending the jubilant Canadians and the suddenly deflated Russians into an overtime session. It was a win that was within the grasp of the Russian team and more than likely should have been theirs, if not for the last gasp drive of the Canadians deep in the Russian end.

The two teams, one with a sudden life, the other with disappointment etched on their faces gave just a little bit more for Saturday night's special, the extra time solving nothing, though Canada had more than a few chances to put the game away in the overtime period, yet the Russian goaltender held his ground to force the two teams to the shoot out.

With an entire arena watching, afraid to take a breath it seems, the shooters prepared for their chance to stare down the opposing goaltender. In the end, it proved to be no match up, as Canada scored quickly to bring the night’s drama to an end, the only question to remain after the enthralling hockey being why coach Sergei nenemchov did not go with Filatov and Klopov his team’s leading scorers, both sat forlorn on the ice at the game’s end never summoned to try and push his team ahead.

The near miss to Russia exposed some flaws in the Canadian game, some sloppiness on defence and a far too frequent urge to make the pretty plays, a process that flirts with disaster time and time again. With one day to prepare his team, coach Pat Quinn will no doubt re address those concerns, pointing out how close they came to throwing away their chance for a gold medal.

In the end the legacy of Canadian hockey has always been that Canadian teams normally find a way to win, some kind of inner resolve to not let a game slip away, to find the big play when it’s needed most.

Saturday, they kept true to their form, though from a sold out rink in Ottawa to a nationwide television audience, the thought probably was couldn’t they have done this just a little earlier in the game, saving all the drama for another day.
Globe and Mail-- Canada finds a way
Globe and Mail-- Canadians lucky to escape semis
National Post-- Eberle's epic goals rescue Canada from the brink
National Post-- Canada's defining moment at tournament
National Post-- Swedes end Slovakia's Cinderella story
The Toronto Sun-- Canada's gold hopes alive
The Toronto Sun-- Swedes turn corner
Toronto Star-- Canada going for gold as Russia falls in shootout
CBC Sports-- Canada eyeing 5th straight gold at world juniors
TSN-- Canada Edges Russia in Semis; Advances to Gold medal final

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