Canada, U.S. set for hockey showdown Lysacek tops Plushenko for gold
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — After the 6-1 victory for the United States men's hockey team over Norway yesterday, American forward David Backes looked ahead to Sunday's game against Canada with dread.
"We've seen the way they can put the puck in the net," he said. "We almost have to worry about being embarrassed."
A few hours later, Team Canada nearly was embarrassed itself when it took the ice against Switzerland. Sidney Crosby staved off the upset with a shootout goal that lifted the hosts to a 3-2 victory at Canada Hockey Place.
"To go through that desperation and tight hockey, we are going to have to get better as we move forward," said Crosby.
Added defenseman Chris Pronger: "We can learn an awful lot from this one."
The biggest lesson may be to not face Swiss goaltender Jonas Hiller again. Hiller turned in one of the best performances of this Olympics in any sport, saving 44 of 47 shots in 65 minutes.
"He was in the zone," said Crosby.
Sunday, this whole country may be, as U.S. vs. Canada is one of the most anticipated hockey games in Canadian history.
With each team 2-0, Sunday's winner will be champion of Pool A and advance straight to the quarterfinals. The loser may have to win a qualification game to move on.
American coach Ron Wilson said his team might have been looking ahead to Canada as it struggled to put away Norway before scoring three goals in the final six minutes.
Backes agreed it has been hard to ignore the pending Canadian matchup.
"Absolutely looking forward to it," he said. "It's the best players in the world on the biggest stage I think hockey has ever been on — in Canada, Olympics in Vancouver. Everyone in the world can see these games. To play a Canada team that is favored, that's got all the talent they do, who knows how many Hall of Famers? It's a great test for a bunch of blue-collar Americans on Sunday."
Stunning news from the U.S. match — Jenny Potter didn't have a third straight hat trick. Heck, she didn't have a single point. The Americans still cruised by Finland, 6-0, getting a goal and two assists from captain Natalie Darwitz to cap an undefeated run through the preliminary round. "We've got one task in sight, and we think we are in pretty good position going forward," U.S. defenseman Caitlin Cahow said.
With two of four skeleton runs in the books, the leader is Britain's Amy Williams, who hasn't even won a medal on the World Cup circuit this season. "The sport is so tight between each person that anything can happen," she said. All three medalists from 2006 are in the field, with Canada's gold-medal favorite Mellisa Hollingsworth in third, just nine-hundredths of a second behind. American Noelle Pikus-Pace is fifth. A Japanese slider was disqualified because her skeleton lacked a mandatory sticker.
The slick track at the Whistler Sliding Center is causing problems again. At least 11 two-man bobsleds have spilled sideways in the first two days of training. This season's World Cup two-man overall champion from Switzerland and an Australian were held out of practice yesterday following crashes Wednesday night. Practice wrecks happen in bobsledding. But when they happen within a week of a luger dying in a training accident that causes things like yesterday's decision to add extra training runs.
Attention everyone watching curling and thinking, "I can do that." The U.S. teams might need you. Americans remained 0-for-Vancouver following losses by the men and women, both to Denmark by the score of 7-6. At 0-4, the men are on the brink of elimination; they must win their remaining five matches to get to the semifinals. "Something magical would have to happen for us to make the medal round," U.S. lead John Benton said. The women are 0-3.
Emil Hegle Svendsen won the men's 20-kilometer individual event, denying his mentor, Ole Einar Bjoerndalen, his sixth Olympic gold. With a silver, he became the first Olympic biathlete to medal in the same event in three straight Winter Games. American Jeremy Teela was a late scratch after waking up with sinus problems. Tim Burke was the top American at 45th. Berger dominated from start to finish in the women's 15-kilometer individual race, becoming the first Norwegian woman to win an Olympic race. Lanny Barnes was 23rd, best by an American since 1994.
A night after Fox's "American Idol" drew nearly 4 million more viewers than NBC's broadcast from Vancouver, the athletes outdrew the entertainers by a whopping 11.7 million in the hour the two overlapped Wednesday night. It was the first time in six years that "Idol" was topped by a program in its time slot.