DAY 3: ON TO THE NEXT ONE
By Derek Jory, Canucks.com
Another beautiful day in Vancouver and again, I’m inside Canada Hockey Place for my third day of three game.
If you’re attending any of the action you’ll be able to spot me in the press area. I’m the reporter covered in bruises from pinching himself.
Today’s games feature three medal hopefuls and three Canucks. First up is Ryan Kesler and the Americans against Norway at 12 p.m. (PST), that’s followed by Roberto Luongo and Team Canada hosting Switerzland during a 4:30 p.m. (PST) start before Team Slovakia, led by Pavol Demitra, takes on Alex Ovechkin and the Russians in the late game at 9 p.m. (PST).
Strap yourself in, we’re in for a wild ride.
As always, Canucks.com reporter Derek Jory is in the house, he’ll be keeping you up to date throughout the day on the goings on.
CANADA OUTLASTS SWITZERLAND
(Click here for a replay of Canada vs. Switzerland)
The bad news: at best Canada’s 3-2 shootout win over Switzerland is a moral victory for the powerhouse team.
”The gold metal game’s not tomorrow, that’s the good news,” said Sidney Crosby, who shot twice in the shootout and scored the game-winner snapping a shot past Jonas Hiller as the fourth Canadian shooter.
Team Canada was far from its best against Team Switzerland, although that wasn’t evident right off the bat. A first period goal by Dany Heatley followed by a Patrick Marleau score 35 seconds into the second gave the Canadians a 2-0 advantage and had the rabid Canadian crowd in a frenzy.
The pandemonium lasted throughout, the goal scoring didn’t.
The Swiss scored twice before the end of the second to even things up heading into a third period that had both teams going tit for tat.
The unbelievable goaltending of Swiss’ Jonas Hiller, who finished with 45 saves, kept Canada off the board in the third and through overtime. That remained the case after three Canadian shooters took their crack at him in a shootout before Crosby beat him with a wrist shot blocker side for the win.
“I wasn’t sure what the format was and when the three shooters were over I wasn’t sure if they just brought those three back and kept going or brought new guys,” admitted Crosby.
“Coach came over and said, do you want to go again, and I said sure, I’ll try. I look forward to that chance and try to make the most of it.”
Crosby did just that and for his troubles the Canadians improve to 2-0 in preliminary play, just barely.
Although the accolades went to Hiller, Martin Brodeur held his own in the Canadian net, especially during the shootout where he stopped all four shooters that came flying his way.
”Marty stoned four guys so he’s the one that made some big saves to keep us in it,” said Crosby. “If Marty doesn’t make those saves I don’t get a second crack so I was just happy to get a second crack at it.”
Switzerland snarling its teeth to a seemingly dominant Canadian opponent is nothing new; in 2006 the Swiss blanked the Canadians 2-0 in the second game for both teams at the Torino Games.
Crosby said he was at home watching that game on TV, like every other Canadian.
What a difference four years makes.
“This has been an incredible experience and to be Canadian and be a hockey player playing here in Canada, it doesn’t get any better,” said Crosby, going on to explain that this turbulence may not be the worst thing in the world for Team Canada.
”Going through that isn’t something we wanted going into the game, but it’s not a bad thing for us to go through and hopefully that’ll help us along the way.”
Added Crosby on the play of the Swiss: “We expected them to be good, we respect them, it wasn’t a question of taking them lightly, they got a bounce there on the second goal and in the third we had some great chances that didn’t go in.”
Team Canada and hockey fans coast to coast have two days to breath a sigh of relief and prepare for Canada’s next game, a meeting with the Americans on Rivalry Sunday.
AMERICANS IMPROVE TO 2-0
(Click here for the game replay of USA vs. Norway)
Ryan Kesler and Team USA finally let loose offensively scoring six times in a win over Team Norway.
The second preliminary game for both teams at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games was closer than the 6-1 final indicated with the Americans leading 3-1 before three quick scores in the final 5:41 of the third period.
Brian Rafalski scored twice and Joe Pavelski and Phil Kessel has two points each as 12 Americans found the scoresheet improving the team to 2-0.
Kesler didn’t pick up any points, although he and linemates Jamie Langenbrunner and Dustin Brown were consistently threatening Norway goaltender Pal Grotnes.
”We’re getting the chances and that’s the biggest thing is getting the chances,” said Kesler. “We’re inches away from getting a couple and we need to keep playing like that and keep finding each other. The chemistry is coming and we played a lot better today.”
All-in-all Kesler said the US’ performance was once again up and down, similar to its first win, 3-1 over Switzerland on Tuesday.
”Obviously the first game we were a little rusty and we got better as the game went on and I thought it was the same thing tonight, we started off a little rusty and we got better. “
In both games the American defence allowed too many odd man rushes resulting in scoring chances for their small fry opposition.
Cue Ryan Miller.
The American goalie stopped 10 of 11 shots and his play was vital to the US holding a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes.
”He made a lot of big saves in the first and that’s what he needs to do for us. He needs to make some big saves and key times.”
The elephant in the room can now come out and play with Kesler finally looking forward to the US/Canada game on Rivalry Sunday.
Next to the gold medal final, this is the showdown to catch.
“They’ve got a very skilled team,” said Kesler, who will be asked to display his agitator toughness for 60 minutes against the Canadians.
“It’s not just going to be one line shutting them down, it’s gong to have to be the whole team that plays smart defensively and not push too much offensively. It’s a very skilled team and if we give them off man rushes, they’re going to make us pay.”
DEMO PICKS UP HELPER
Pavol Demitra, the last Canucks player to make his debut at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, hit the ice Wednesday night against Jaromir Jagr and the Czech Repulic.
Although Demo picked up an assist on the lone Slovak goal in a 3-1 loss, the first point for any Vancouver skater at the Games, he wasn’t pleased with the loss in what was easily the most evenly matched contest so far.
The Czechs finished the first game for both teams with the advantage on the scoreboard and on special teams drawing six penalties to four for Slovakia, with four going the way of the Czechs in the second period.
After Jagr scored a magnificent breakaway goal to give the CZE a 2-1 lead, Tomas Plekanec netted a power play goal with two seconds left in the second to seal the deal.
"Every time you touched them, they'd go down,” said Demitra afterwards.
“It was embarrassing. It looked like they were playing soccer."
"Maybe we have to start diving too."
Demitra and the Slovaks hit the ice tonight to face Team Russia.
THE GARBAGE PRINCESS
Covering Olympic hockey actually is as glorious as it sounds, but it can leave you with a headache. And I’m not talking rock concert brain cramp, this rivals the migraine that would accompany losing your house, job and significant other in the same day.
At Canada Hockey Place, that headache goes by the name of the garbage princess.
That’s not actually her name, that’s what us print jerks have dubbed her.
Following the first and second games of the day the arena needs a quick clean up and there’s a gang of roughly 50 hardworking people, all dressed in orange and blue uniforms that rival past ugliness of New York Islanders jerseys, who get the job done.
The Islanders are led by the garbage princess. She screams at them at the top of her lungs in some kind of Australian/New Zealand accent as they make their way around the arena, one row at a time.
"KEEEP GOING. DON’T MISS ANY GARBAGE. GO FASTER. YOU CAN DO BETTER. YOU'RE DOING A WONDERFUL JOB.”
You get the picture.
To those of us with deadlines trying to cover men’s hockey for the world, this presents quite the dilemma. Forget about piecing together a solid story, as you read this imagine someone screaming in your ear and not with just any scream, this squeal is a combination of finger nails on a chalkboard and bagpipes.
One of the brave print gents in front of me stopped her yesterday after the Sweden game and asked if she could keep it down a little.
"IT’S MY JOB TO YELL AT THEM AND KEEP THEM MOVING.”
At least he tried.
To the garbage princess’ credit, her crew does a bang up job getting this place ready for another throng on fans in practically no time. I’m just not sure if she needs to scream soooo loud to get it done.