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Day Nine (Thirteen): A Great Day of Hockey

Have some thoughts on the Olympics, hockey-related or otherwise?  This is your dumping ground.  And my oh my there are some things to throw down today.  A gold medal performance in ski-cross, which is one of the weirdest events in the Games.  It honestly looks like an event where the skiiers looked at the snowboarders and said, "Hey look guys, we're cool too!" and the snowboarders just laughed at them and left.  But still a great performance from Ashleigh McIvor and congrats to her on the gold.

Then there were the two bobsledders who held their own last night and are in the hunt going into today.  It's hilarious that they ran the feature on the girl that always finishes fourth in the bobsleigh only to have her finish fourth after two runs.  You better believe that's getting replayed this morning.   But the other sled is sitting in first and it looks at least possible for the Canadians to take two medals in the event.  And who's going to be watching the last two runs live?  Nobody.  Except maybe during the intermission. It's a shame for them really.  Maybe they ought to move the event. 

Then there's Great Britain and Sweden playing today to see who gets Kevin Martin in the semis.  Sweden had better win.  After an undefeated round robin wouldn't it be just perfect if Kevin Martin gets to play Murdoch in the semis.  You can see the train wreck from a mile away.  Oh Kevin Martin, why does fate you so much!?

But the best thing about last night was the highly emotional performance from Joannie Rochette.  Seeing her go out and perform at a high level given the circumstances was awesome.  Healing for her too I'd bet.  Just a wonderful skate and I hope she performs well again in her next skate so that she can leave these Olympics with a mixture of sadness and joy instead of just epic sadness.

As for the hockey, Belarus and Switzerland went as expected.  It was tight but the Swiss made it through to face the Americans today.  Will the Swiss be able to hang around?  If so, they'll need to play a lot better than they have in their last two games and they'll need Hiller to be better as well. 

Canada and Germany was again, as expected: a blow-out victory for Canada.  And now it's the Russians.  As I said last night, I can hardly wait.  The game is going to be an epic display of skill and desire.  Both the Canadians and Russians have had some kinks so far in the tournament (Russia's power play hasn't been nearly as good as it should be) but this is the most hockey talent in one game we'll see all year and both teams are desperate to win.  It's going to be amazing.

Then it was Latvia and the Czech Republic in the only game being played at UBC in the men's tournament.  And boy was that one fun.  The Czechs beat up on the underdogs early but after a lackluster second period held only a 2-0 lead going into the third.  Still, a two-goal lead against Latvia with one period left is pretty much home and cooled.  And the Czechs played like it.  Latvia got some chances, killed some penalties, survived Edgars Maskalskis passing the puck between his legs to a Czech attacker, got wonderful goaltending - the Latvians were playing well and the Czechs weren't, but the Latvians were still being widely outchanced - and then with eight minutes to go it was 2-1.  Five minutes later the Latvians were crowding the front of the net and it was 2-2.  Lat! Vi! A!  Lat! Vi! A! Lat! Vi! A!  The crowd sensed it.  Fate had already wisked Jagr away with an injury so that hockey royalty wouldn't be embarrassed.  The Czechs all sat on the bench, the Latvians all stood; it was an image that would live on for years to come.  Overtime.  A minute in the puck bounced off the glass behind the net and into Tomas Vokoun, drifting just wide.  Inches from Tommy II.   Inches.  Then with five minutes left it was David Krejci scoring on the Czechs first shot of overtime.  Dammit.  Maskalskis played a great game and the goal wasn't exactly a softie but it just felt like he should have made that save.  That he bucked fate.  Sad.  But now it's the Czechs meeting Finland today.  Jaromir Jagr may be out (injury, day-to-day) for the Czechs and Joni Pitkanen is definitely out (suspension) for the Finns.  It should be a good one nonetheless with both teams recognizing that they have a great chance at the gold medal game.  Still, I feel ripped off that I won't be hearing Latvia chants and singing all through an 8-0 drubbing. 

Finally, it was the Norwegians and Slovaks.  And again the game was unexpectedly close.  O-K Tollefsen was kicked out of the game early and the Slovaks scored twice for a 2-0 lead.  The game seemed over already.  But at the end of two periods it was only 3-1 and with a goal in the final second of the second period the Norwegians were had tied the game 3-3 heading into the third.  The Norwegians were actually much closer to the Slovaks in flow of play than the Latvians had been to the Czechs.  After watching a close second period and the first five minutes of the third, you got the impression that it could go either way.  The crowd desperately wanted the Norwegians to pull the upset but I was of a different mind.  I like the Slovaks to begin with and I wanted the Swedes to have a real game in the quarters so I was cheering for the Slovaks throughout.  And let me tell you, a tie-game in that situation as the favourite is no fun.  It was different than the Canadians and Swiss (both this year and in 2006) because you know there's still time to fight another day.  Not so here.  You're tied with Norway and if you lose you're done.  Come on Slovakia!  Just put it away already!  And then old friend Miroslav Satan put it away mid-way through the period.  The crowd was going crazy for every puck that came near Jaroslav Halak from that time on but it never made it into the goal.  And now today the Slovaks meet the Swedes.  Heavy favourites to heavy underdogs just like that.  Let's hope that the Slovaks can take that extra step against the Swedes that Norway wasn't able to take against them.

Schedule:

United States v. Switzerland 1:00 p.m. MST

Canada v. Russia 5:30 p.m. MST

Finland v. Czech Republic 8:00 p.m. MST

Sweden v. Slovakia 10:00 p.m. MST

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