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Olympics / Sports

The Team Canada bench celebrates after defeating Team USA, 1-0, in the men's hockey semifinal at Bolshoy Ice Dome during the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014. (Carlos Gonzalez/Minneapolis Star Tribune/MCT)

Canada plays bigger and faster than the big and fast Americans in victory

SOCHI, Russia -- U.S. defenseman Ryan Suter cut through the post-game blather about playing hard and having opportunities and coming up short in the semifinals of the men's Olympic hockey tournament Friday.

"We didn't show up to play," Suter said. "It's kind of frustrating. We sat back. We were passive. You can't play scared. I thought we sat on our heels and just didn't take it to them at all."

The other possibility? Team Canada is just that much better than Team USA.

The score was 1-0, but if it's possible for one team to be clearly superior in a one-goal game, this was Exhibit A. Canada kept the puck on the Americans' end for long stretches, smothered penalties and throttled Team USA's potent offense.

For all the talk about how big and fast the Americans were, Canada played bigger and faster.

"I think we were the first team that could skate with them in this tournament," Canadian forward Matt Duchene said. "Even the Russians didn't play them as hard as we did."

Team Canada advanced to the gold-medal game against Sweden on Sunday, while the United States faces Finland for the bronze medal Saturday. Sweden beat Finland, 2-1, in the other semifinal at the Bolshoy Ice Dome.

"We have one more chance to win a medal and make this trip worth it," forward David Backes said.

For the Americans, it was yet another bitter pill administered by their neighbors to the north.

Four years ago, with 27 million of Canada's 33 million citizens tuned in, Sidney Crosby scored the golden goal against Team USA in overtime in Vancouver. And on Thursday, the U.S. women lost to Canada in the gold-medal game for the third time in the last four Olympics.

"I always tell Canadians and nobody believes me: It's hard to win," said Mike Babcock, Canada's men's coach. "You don't just put your country's uniform on and win. It's hard. You have to line up the moon and stars to win. People don't believe that in Canada but it's a fact."

The men's semifinal played out much the way U.S. coach Dan Bylsma envisioned it would, but with a different result.

"We are not going to try to outshoot a team like Canada," he said the day before the game. "We are going in with a blue-collar mentality, to outwork them."

Instead, the Americans got outworked. They couldn't get untracked on their power play, had a hard time putting their offense together and played defense for long stretches. Zach Parise got eight shots and Phil Kessel took four but no one else got more than three.

"We forced them to play in their defensive zone a lot," Crosby said. "They've got a lot of guys who are skilled and they have a lot of speed, but I think we did a good job of keeping them in there for 20-second stretches and kind of taking away their energy offensively."

Said Bylsma, "The Canadians played a fast game. I thought they came at us with 20 guys tonight. They came at us with speed. They came at us for 60 minutes. We weren't able to counter that or match that as much as we would have liked."

Forward Jamie Benn scored the game's lone goal early in the second period. Jay Bouwmeester threaded a pass between three U.S. defenders to Benn just outside the crease and he fired a wrist shot past goalie Jonathan Quick.

"David Backes is going out on Bouwmeester and I was confident David was going to get in the way of that one," Bylsma said. "It was a great play by the guy in the slot as well. I thought getting the first goal was big in the game. They did gain momentum off it."

Both goalies were outstanding with Quick stopping 36 of 37 shots and Carey Price turning back all 31 shots by the Americans.

"Our goalie was our best player on the ice tonight," Bylsma said. "We just weren't able to turn that back the other way."

Canada has struggled to put the puck in the net in this tournament but not for lack of opportunities.

"We haven't scored," Babcock said, "and no one seems to care."

Defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic pointed out that the Canadians get every opponent's best effort.

"Everybody wants to beat Canada, you know?" he said. "We've played defensive games and we've come out on top and now we're in the gold-medal game. It doesn't matter how you get there as long as you get there. That's all that Canada wants and that's all we want, is to win the gold medal."

Suter didn't hesitate when he was asked which loss hurt more, this one or the gold-medal game in Vancouver.

"This one," he said. "We didn't show up to play and it's very frustrating. We had motivation. We just didn't take it on the ice."

(c)2014 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Visit the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at www.jsonline.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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US MEN HOCKEY, CANADA


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