SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) — Canada and the
United States were preparing to take centre stage at the Sochi Winter
Games in a mouth-watering men's ice hockey grudge match on Friday with
the winners earning a shot at Olympic gold.
Thousands of miles and nine times zones away, hockey-mad
Canadians — still buzzing from a stunning 3-2 overtime win over the
United States in the women's final on Thursday — were waking up to
another day of compelling action on the ice.
"You don't give in, you do not give in," Canada coach Mike Babcock
told reporters following a pre-game skate when asked if his team
would take anything from the women's comeback victory over the
"You just keep on keeping on," he said. "Is it going to go your way
every time? No, but you choose your attitude, how hard you are going
to perform and you dig in.
"I am pumped."
And so is the entire country.
Businesses across the Great White North are expected to empty and
bars will fill to capacity as millions of hockey fans tune in to
watch the first meeting between the North American rivals since
Canada claimed the Olympic title four years ago in Vancouver with a
golden goal from Sidney Crosby.
The stakes will be nearly as high on Friday at the futuristic
Bolshoy Ice Dome with the winners advancing to Sunday's final
against Finland or Sweden, who face off in the other semi.
Both teams enter the do-or-die contest unbeaten but arrived in the
final four in contrasting fashions, the Americans blasting to a
comfortable 5-2 win over the Czech Republic and Canada surviving a
scare from tiny Latvia before edging through 2-1.
Canada and the United States have clashed 17 times on Olympic ice
with Canada winning 11.
When the Americans beat Canada 5-3 in the preliminary round at the
Vancouver Games it marked their first Olympic victory over their
northern neighbors in 50 years.
The United States are led by the tournament's leading scorer Phil
Kessel, who has five goals and three assists in four games, while
Canada have leaned heavily on a defense anchored by Drew Doughty and
Canada are trying to win their first Olympic gold medal outside
North America in 62 years and become the first country since the
1988 Soviets to defend their crown.