Team Canada embraces its identity to advance to men's hockey semis

If there was any doubt how much this Olympic opportunity means to this bunch of unheralded Canadian journeymen hockey players, all you had to do was watch the final 90 seconds of their determined quarter-final victory over Finland.

Defensively-minded Canadians will meet Germany on Friday at 7:10 a.m. ET

Finland's Eeli Tolvanen, centre, is upended by Chris Lee, left, and Derek Roy, right. The Canadians held the leading scorer of the Olympic men's hockey tournament - as well as the rest of his teammates - off the scoresheet in a 1-0 quarter-final victory on Wednesday. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

By Tim Wharnsby, CBC Sports

If there was any doubt how much this Olympic opportunity means to this bunch of unheralded Canadian journeymen hockey players, all you had to do was watch the final 90 seconds of their determined quarter-final victory.

Derek Roy, the offensive whiz for Canada in its first three games, made a nifty stick check while on his stomach to poke the puck out of the Canadian zone.

First-line left wing Rene Bourque dropped down to block a shot as did energy-line member Rob Klinkhammer on the next shift. Finally, centre Eric O'Dell, who was near perfect in the face-off circle all game, won the final two vital faceoffs in Canada's end.

The result was a 1-0 win. Canada has advanced to the semifinals on Friday (CBC, 7:10 a.m. ET) and will meet the surprise Germans, who stunned Sweden 4-3 thanks to an overtime goal from 35-year-old Patric Reimer.

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The Olympic Athletes from Russia will clash with the Czech Republic in the other semifinal on Friday (2:40 a.m. ET).

"It is pretty emotional," Canadian veteran defenceman Chris Lee said. "What a battle. I can't believe what happened.

"That was a tough team to play. They started pressing in the third and we dug in, blocked shots and I'm really proud of this group."

Shared shutout

The Canadians had to overcome a nervous opening 20 minutes in their outing. They were much better as the game developed, outshooting Finland 30-21.

Ben Scrivens and his backup Kevin Poulin shared the shutout. Scrivens made six saves before O'Dell slammed Finnish forward Veli-Matti Savinainen into the Canadian goaltender, four minutes and 17 seconds into the second period.

Scrivens suffered an upper-body injury and will be re-evaluated on Thursday. Meanwhile, Poulin came in and didn't miss a beat, making 16 stops.

The first and only goal of the game arrived 55 seconds into the final period. O'Dell won another draw back to defenceman Maxim Noreau and he drilled a rising 45-foot shot over the blocker of Finnish goalie Mikko Koskinen.

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Noreau and Poulin were teammates in the latter's rookie season of junior with the 2006-07 Victoriaville Tigres. Both now play in Switzerland (Noreau for SC Bern and Poulin for EHC Kloten) and they can't believe that 11 years later they're together again in the Winter Olympic Games.

"I would have never thought in a million years the two of us would be representing Canada in the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang," Poulin said. "It has been fun."

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It also was fun for Poulin and Noreau to play together in late December and help Canada win the Spengler Cup in Davos, Switzerland. Now they're off to the Olympic semifinals.

But if Noreau thought he was going to receive a hero's welcome from his 18-month-old son who was in the stands, Noreau knows better. He looked up at one point during the game and saw his son sleeping in his stroller.

Playing the shutdown game

Canada knew entering this game it had to shut down 18-year-old Eeli Tolvanen and his linemates Julius Junttila and Petri Kontiola. Tolvanen, a Nashville Predators prospect, had led the men's tournament in scoring with three goals and nine points in four games.

Head coach Willie Desjardins gave the checking assignment to the O'Dell, Klinkhammer and Max Lapierre line and that trio came through with flying colours, holding the teenager to just two shots on goal. O'Dell just happens to perform in the Kontinental Hockey League for Sochi, where Canada's best were dominant in the Olympics four years ago.

But with this Canadian group, this effort went beyond O'Dell, Noreau and Poulin, it was a team effort. Finland had held the opposition to only 24 shots per game in its previous four outings, so Canada knew goals would be hard to come by.

The Canadians focused on defence and that Noreau-from-O'Dell combination was just enough.

"We're not a run-and-gun team," captain Chris Kelly concluded. "We battled for two periods, we stayed composed and we didn't beat ourselves.

"That's kind of our identity, a hard-working, defensive-minded team and I thought that's exactly how we played. We know that's what is going to bring us success."