The last ten or so minutes of Friday’s Canada vs. Slovakia game produced some of the most tense and chaotic moments of the Olympic men’s hockey tourney so far, but the Canadians were able to squeak out a 3-2 win after barely holding it together in the finale minutes.
The victory for Canada sets up the gold medal game against the Americans and puts thoughts of revenge in motion for fans from both countries.
Friday’s game saw Slovakia sit back for much of it, playing a sort of chess game that allowed Canada a confident 3-0 lead heading into the third period. Roberto Luongo hadn’t really been tested up to that point and the Canadians seemed primed for easy pickings. It wasn’t quite the dominant performance Canada put in against the Russians, but the red-and-white squad seemed in control nevertheless.
And then it all changed.
The Slovakian team took control going into the third period, driving hard to the net and generating lots of chances off of physical play around Luongo. The Canadians appeared to get frustrated easily and took to chaotic, flamboyant play in their own end. They played physically but often went out of their way to generate hits and that opened up ice for Slovakia to get some big chances on goal.
Slovakian defenceman Lubomir Visnovsky started the onslaught by spoiling Luongo’s shutout bid with a goal that snuck in from an awkward angle. And Michal Handzus upped the ante with a rebound goal that saw just slightly under five minutes remaining on the clock. Panic was in the air and the Canadians began to scramble under the pressure, but the clock mercifully wound down.
Naturally Canada will have to remain more composed in high pressure moments if they intend to win against the Americans on Sunday. The U.S. team is undefeated at these Olympics and took care of the Finnish team just a few hours before Canada took to the ice against the Slovaks.
Patrick Marleau and Brenden Morrow opened the scoring for Canada in the latter half of the first period, while Ryan Getzlaf notched a power play marker late in the second frame.
Canada’s goals were generated by top-loading the Slovaks with traffic and giving them plenty to think about, so the same strategy will have to be carried out against the tough American club. U.S. goalie Ryan Miller will be all sorts of trouble, making deflections and rebounds the best options for Canadian scoring.
The gold medal game goes Sunday at noon PST. Slovakia will face off against Finland for the bronze.
Posted by Jordan Richardson.