Canada to play for men's hockey bronze after stunning loss to Germany
Germans halt 15-game losing streak vs. Canada, will meet Olympic Athletes from Russia on Saturday in final
By Doug Harrison, CBC Sports
Germany delivered its second straight upset of the Olympic men's hockey tournament, beating Canada 4-3 on Friday to clinch a berth in Saturday's final against the gold-medal favourites from Russia.
Canada will face Czech Republic for bronze on Saturday (7:10 a.m. ET) in South Korea. The Germans and Olympic Athletes from Russia will battle for gold at 11:10 p.m. in the first championship game between two European clubs since Sweden beat Finland in 2006 at Turin, Italy.
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"Everyone's surprised. You saw the celebration by Germany, they're surprised," said analyst P.J. Stock. "I think Team Canada let Germany play their game. Canada was undisciplined at times. They were a team [before Friday] that was disciplined in its structure and positioning, and for about 40 minutes today that wasn't there."
The Germans, fresh off a shocking 4-3 quarter-final victory over Sweden, took a commanding 4-1 lead at Gangneung Hockey Centre on goals by Matthias Plachta and Frank Mauer three minutes 28 seconds apart early in the second period. Brooks Macek opened the scoring in the first and Patrick Hager added his third goal of the tournament and team-leading fifth point.
Danny Aus den Birken, the championship goalie at home each of the past two seasons, stopped 28 of 31 shots to lead Germany to its first Olympic win over Canada in 16 tries over 86 years. It was only Germany's second victory in 30 meetings with Canada in Olympic and world championship play. The first was a 5-1 win at the 1996 worlds in Vienna.
Canada put forth a valiant effort in the third period as goals from Mat Robinson and former Buffalo Sabres centre Derek Roy, with his first of the tourney, closed the deficit to 4-3 with 10:18 left in regulation, but the two-time defending Olympic champions ran out of time.
"It's as disappointing as it gets right there," said Robinson. "A tough loss for us and we let our country down today. It's a tough pill to swallow."
"We shot ourselves in the foot in the beginning of the game and we weren't able to come back from it."
Germans 10th in preliminary round
Canada outshot Germany 15-1 in the third period and 31-15 for the game.
Germany, which ranks eighth internationally, finished 11th of 12 teams at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and failed to qualify four years ago in Sochi, Russia. West Germany won Olympic bronze in 1976 at Innsbruck, Austria, and Germany captured bronze at the 1932 Games in Lake Placid, N.Y.
At these Games, the Germans needed a shootout to prevail 2-1 over Norway to finish 10th in the preliminary round before edging Switzerland 2-1 in the qualification round. Against Sweden, they blew leads of 2-0 and 3-1 but eked out the win.
The Germans nearly stunned Canada at the 1992 Olympics in Albertville, France. After forcing overtime, Eric Lindros scored on Canada's sixth shot of the first medal-round shootout in Olympic history.
With Canada trailing 3-0 on Friday, Gilbert Brule gave his team some life with a power-play goal near the halfway mark of the second period. Earlier in the period, the former Columbus Blue Jackets forward was late on backcheck that led to Germany's second goal, and less than five minutes later was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct for a check to the head of German forward David Wolf.
A costly faceoff violation by Canadian forward Rene Bourque led to the game's opening goal by Macek, a Winnipeg native who wristed a shot under the right arm of goalie Kevin Poulin at 14:43 of the first period. The 25-year-old leads the German league (DEL) in goals this season with 26.
Plachta made it 2-0 at 3:21 of the second when he took a beautiful cross-ice pass from Hager and beat a fallen Poulin over the right shoulder for his first goal of the tournament. Poulin got the start over Ben Scrivens, who didn't suit up after suffering a shoulder injury in a second-period collision during Canada's 1-0 quarter-final win over Finland.
Poulin, who started the final preliminary-round game against South Korea, came into Friday's game having stopped all 34 shots he had faced at the tournament.
Hager's winning goal on Friday came on German power play. With Canadian forward Eric O'Dell serving a hooking penalty, a shot deflected off Hager's kneecap and went through Poulin's legs as Germany restored its three-goal lead.
All eyes on Kovalchuk, Datsyuk
With fewer than 10 Germans in the NHL, the absence of the NHLers has not hurt them as much as most.
In Friday's other semifinal, Vasili Koshechkin made 31 saves to backstop OAR to a 3-0 victory over the Czech Republic. Drafted in the eight round by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2002, Koshechkin has won two Gagarin Cups in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League and a playoff MVP award.
Led up front by former NHL star forwards Ilya Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk, "Russia" is vying for its first Olympic gold since 1992 when the Unified Team defeated Canada 3-1.
There was no time to send a replacement for the Soviet national team just weeks after the Soviet Union was dissolved, so the Unified Team featured players from six of the 15 former Soviet republics: Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
The Russians haven't medalled at the Olympics since 2002 in Salt Lake City and were eliminated in the quarter-finals in Vancouver and Sochi.
With files from The Canadian Press