KELLY, EBBETT SCORE PAIR AS CANADA DOWNS CZECH REPUBLIC FOR BRONZE
Canada has found the podium for a third straight Olympics, and done so with what was their most impressive offensive performance of the tournament.
After having difficulties getting on the board against the Germans in the semifinal, Canada’s attack came to life in the first frame of the bronze game, a rematch of a preliminary round meeting with the Czechs.
The offensive onslaught began little more than seven minutes in the game, when the Czech Republic’s Martin Ruzicka was whistled for hooking, sending Canada to the game’s first power play. And the special teams unit that has been lethal all tournament make no mistake as Andrew Ebbett deflected Mat Robinson’s shot from the top of the circle by Pavel Francouz. The lead was short-lived, though, as it took all of 16 seconds for the Czech Republic to draw even. As if to make up for his earlier infraction, Ruzicka was able to get his stick on a shot that was headed wide, putting it past Kevin Poulin to even the score at one apiece. The early flurry of goals was capped off 15 seconds later when Canadian captain Chris Kelly tipped a Cody Goloubef shot past Czech netminder Francouz to restore a one-goal lead. Before the frame was through, Canada doubled their lead when Derek Roy, who had been excellent all tournament, created a 2-on-1 by hustling into a break alongside Brandon Kozun and made no mistake, sliding a Kozun feed home to put the Czechs in a 3-1 hole heading into the break.
Even with the offense, it could be said the star of the first frame was Poulin. Following a disappointing loss to the Germans in which he allowed four goals on 15 shots, Poulin was peppered in the opening period of the bronze game but only cracked once, stopping 14 of the 15 shots he faced. He continued his stellar play into the second, stopping another five Czech Republic shots in a frame that was dominated by defense as both teams failed to find the net. But defense gave way to offense almost as soon as the third kicked off.
Nearly six minutes into the final period, Ebbett worked his way to the front of the Czech net with his stick on the ice as a target for Kozun, who fired a hard pass out front that Ebbett tipped for top corner for his second goal of the game. And in the near repeat of what had happened in the first, the two teams proceeded to trade goals in quick succession. Less than a minute after Canada went ahead by three, Jan Kovar scored for the Czech Republic on a delayed penalty to bring the game close. But almost exactly three minutes later, Kelly double his goal total in the outing by wiring home a laser wrister.
The Czechs nearly drew the game closer on a Martin Erat tally shortly after Kelly scored, but Canada challenged the marker for goaltender interference, and it was ruled by the officials that contact was made with Poulin that prevented the Canadian keeper from making a save. That challenge pay dividends for Canada, too, as it was a short time later that Wojtek Wolski extended the lead to 6-2, putting the Czechs in an insurmountable hole. Roman Cervenka scored to cut the lead to 6-3 and another on a late power play to reduce the deficit to two, but it wasn’t nearly enough as Canada held on to take bronze.
With the win, Canada has now medalled at three consecutive Olympics, while the Czech Republic, who won Group A and have knocked off some top competition at the tournament, suffered the disappointment of finishing off the podium. The Czechs have not medalled since winning bronze at the 2006 Games in Turin.
GERMANY LOOKS TO WRITE FINAL CHAPTER OF CINDERELLA STORY AGAINST OAR
It is, without a doubt, the most surprising story of the Olympic tournament. Germany entered the competition as one of the biggest underdogs, a nation that was about as far from a hockey superpower as there was in the tournament. But over the past week, Germany has gone from barely being able to squeak by Norway to upsetting two of the most storied international programs in the sport. First, it was an overtime victory over Sweden, and then an unthinkable regulation win over the Canadians. Now, they face undoubtedly their toughest test, a meeting with the star-studded Olympic Athletes from Russia.
OAR has the most formidable attack in the tournament, boasting NHL-calibre talents such as Pavel Datsyuk, Ilya Kovalchuk and prospects Kirill Kaprizov and Ivan Telegin, and thus have been able to run roughshod over the competition. The test for Germany will be finding a way to slow down an offense that only Slovakia, in the opening game of the group stage, has been able to truly wrangle. That will fall as much on the team defense as it does Danny aus den Birken, who has played remarkably in the elimination round. Meanwhile, OAR will attempt to pick apart that very same defense.
The expectation is that OAR is headed for the top of the podium, and if they win gold, it will be the first-place Olympic medal for the Russian team. That said, it won’t be under the Russian banner due to the IOC’s sanctions ahead of the tournament. The last time Russian Olympians won gold in men’s hockey was in 1992 when the Unified Team finished atop the competition. Germany has never won a silver or gold medal in hockey.
1. Chris Kelly (CAN): Canada’s captain had two goals, including the game-winning marker.
2. Andrew Ebbett (CAN): Two-goal performance sparked the attack in the first and third frames.
3. Roman Cervenka (CZE): Three-point performance in a losing effort for the Czechs.
Saturday, Feb. 24
Germany vs. OAR (M), 11:10 p.m. ET — Gold-Medal Game