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Canada faces Russia in single elimination semi finals

Team Canada will have to go through Russia to get to the World Cup of Hockey finals

by Chris Wescott | Head Writer @TheChrisWescott / Edmontonoilers.com

Tonight, an international rivalry is renewed.

For Canada and Russia, it all began back in 1972 when the Summit Series pit the Canadians against the Soviet Union. A rivalry was born, and it clashes again in the semi finals of the World Cup of Hockey at 7 p.m. ET.

Canada cruised through the round robin segment of the tournament, with a 3-0-0 record and 14-3 goal differential. They are the heavy favourites in the group of four that remains.

In two games, Canada goaltender Carey Price sits near the top of the heap with a .968 save percentage and 1.00 GAA. In terms of scoring, Canada boasts the top three point getters of the tournament thus far - Jonathan Toews (3-2-4), Matt Duchene (2-2-4) and Sidney Crosby (2-2-4).

Canada crushed the Czech Republic 6-0 in their round robin opener, then dominated the disappointing U.S. team 4-2. Their 4-1 win over the surprising Team Europe on Wednesday clinched them the top seed in Group A.

They have led for 161:28 of this tournament so far, and have trailed for just 1:29.

"Even if you're up in games, you're never comfortable," said Toews. "You're never feeling you have it in the bag and we don't want to go forward thinking we're too good either, because that's the first thought that's going to cause a huge problem."

Russia had a more contested round robin. After a 2-1 loss to Sweden, they needed a win against Finland in their final round robin game to eliminate Team North America and secure their spot in the semis. They've continued to progress since that loss in their opening game, beating North America 4-3 and Finland 3-0. 

Russia's leading scorer is Alex Ovechkin, who has one goal and two assists for three points. Russia will need the All Star to have a good game if they want to upset the Canadians. But maybe more so, Russia's hopes lie with goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky who has started all three games for his home country here in Toronto. Bobrovsky has stopped 91 of 96 shots faced for a .948 save percentage and 1.68 GAA.

Team Russia has struggled on the power play, going 0-for-8 on the man advantage through three games.

"We just need to play our game, give everything on the ice and play 100 percent," said Russian forward Evgeny Dadonov.

Having this tournament played in Canada puts added pressure on the host country to succeed and not suffer a setback against one of their greatest rivals.

"I feel like whatever day it is, whatever time it is, this would be a game that everyone would want to tune in for," said Crosby. "I think you appreciate that opportunity, being a hockey player playing for Team Canada, regardless of the day or where. You know you have that support. It's special it's here in Canada. It's an opportunity and we have to do something with it."

On this date in 1972, Canada scored three goals in an 83-second span to beat the Soviet Union 3-2 in Game 6 of the Summit Series in Moscow. Tonight, the rivalry continues.

"It's going to be a huge challenge," said Bobrovsky. "It's going to be a great hockey game. We're going to focus on that game as the most important game of our life."

The winner of Canada-Russia goes on to face the winner of Europe vs. Sweden in a best-of-three series.

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