Team Canada hit the ice tonight in Buffalo ready to avenge last year's gold medal loss to Team USA. And tonight, they got their revenge, in front of a mostly Canadian crowd at HSBC Arena, handily defeating the Americans 4-1. WHL players factored in 3 of Canada's four goals (Curtis Hamilton/Saskatoon Blades, Quinton Howden/Moose Jaw Warriors, Ryan Johansen/Portland Winterhawks). Sabres prospect Zack Kassian (Windsor Spitfires/OHL) capped off the win for Canada with the 4th goal. Chris Brown scored Team USA's only goal in a game that was fast and hard-hitting.
American goalie Jack Campbell deserves a medal for holding the Canadians to just four goals. He blocked 37 of 41 shots peppered at him, while counterpart Mark Visentin turned away 22 of 23 shots. With this win, Team Canada looks to banish questions raised following their loss to a strong Swedish team Friday night.
Sweden, on the other hand, will battle Team USA for the bronze medal, after a stunning 4-3 shootout loss to Team Russia. The Swedes were the top seeds heading into tonight's game, while Russia got off to a shaky start and slowly gained momentum, capped by a couple of 8-goal games. Russian Captain Vladimir Tarasenkov and Denis Golubev, Sergei Kalinin scored in regulation. Adam Larsson, Calle Jarnkrok and Patrick Cehlin scored in regulation for the Swedes. Golubev clinched the win for Russia in the shootout, stunning the Swedes and silencing critics.
Russia will face Canada Wednesday night at 7:30 for the gold and you can bet that there will be a sea of (Canadian) red at HSBC Arena, cheering their boys on. But don't count the Russians out of this party. I've said this before and I'll say it again: in this tournament, there's no such thing as a "sure thing." Every team has shown chinks in its armor. Having said that, I'll stick by my original prediction that Canada will reclaim the gold. I also believe that Team USA will prevail over Sweden to skate away with a bittersweet bronze.
What are your thoughts about the tournament? Who do you think will win gold? What players have surprised you? Who's been a disappointment? Chime in-- either now or email me for my story later this week, breaking down the tournament.