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Olympic Hockey

Canada Squeaks By Latvia, Sets Up USA Match-up

USATSI_7754179_154158418_lowresThe important thing is that Team Canada got the wing, right?

The Canadian Olympic men’s hockey team managed to squeak one out over the Latvian Olympic men’s hockey team on Wednesday at the Bolshoy Ice Dome in Sochi. The favourites defeated the underdogs by a final score of 2-1.

If all of Canada held its breath throughout the contest, they certainly wouldn’t be blamed. Just a few hours earlier, the mighty Russians saw their medal hopes vanish at the hands of Team Finland. That the same fate could await Team Canada wasn’t altogether off the table.

After all, the Canadians hadn’t looked so hot throughout the Olympics thus far. The game against Latvia confirmed it and this hockey club still has a lot of problems going into their upcoming test against the Americans.

In fact, Team USA knocked off the Czechs on Wednesday by a final score of 5-2 to set up a Friday semifinal against Team Canada.

In Canada’s victory over the Latvian club, more lessons were learned.

For one thing, Latvia’s goalie Kristers Gudlevskis did all that was asked of him and more. He stopped 55 shots in the win and nearly got his team a victory. And now he’ll return to the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch with a little more spring in his step.

The Canadians, meanwhile, got most of their offensive push from the blueline. Shea Weber potted the winning goal, with Drew Doughty (who else?) setting up the one-timer. Patrick Sharp had the first Canadian goal.

The trend remains: Canada’s forwards aren’t scoring enough. When Team Canada locks horns with the Americans, they’ll have to face a club that has its forwards clicking. David Backes has been playing like a boss for Team USA and 18 out of 19 American skaters to play in the last four games have a point. Only Paul Martin is on the outside looking in.

The Canadians, meanwhile, have seen very little out of its top guns. Sidney Crosby left the Latvian game without a point (again). To make matters worse, the team will be without forward John Tavares after he suffered a leg injury against the Latvians.

So the Team Canada going into the semifinals against the Americans will have its work cut out for it, to be sure. They won’t be able to steamroll Team USA and they’ll have to watch out for opposing forwards that can actually score, plus Jonathan Quick is a more than formidable goaltender.

Still, the Canadians could still manage a victory if they can catch the Americans off guard. It won’t be easy and the Great White North may spend Friday holding its breath once again.

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