This afternoon at approximately 1:15 Central Standard Time, Canadians across the country let out a huge sigh of relief. After two and a half periods of tense, nail biting hockey, Shea Weber's power play marker finally broke a 1-1 deadlock between Canada and Latvia, ensuring the tournament favourite a spot in the Olympic Semifinals against the United States.
The game started well enough for the Canucks who took the lead thirteen minutes into the first period on Patrick Sharp's first goal of the tournament. The tally was set up by a beautiful feed from Rick Nash and it appeared as though Canada was well on their way to victory against an overmatched Latvian squad.
Credit where credit is due, Ted Nolan would not let Latvia fade softly into the Sochi night. Instead they fought back only minutes later when Laurins Darzins took a breakaway pass from Arturs Kulda on a set play after a face-off win. Darzins has been an offensive catalyst throughout the tournament for the Latvians and his goal this afternoon set the table for what turned out to be a wild finish.
Over the next forty minutes, Canada fired shot after shot in the direction of goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis who offered a truly sensational performance stopping fifty-five by any means necessary. The 21-year old netminder was a 2013 draft pick of Hockey Canada's patriarch Steve Yzerman and certainly appeared to be better than his current ECHL employment would lead to believe.
But unfortunately for Gudlevskis and his Latvian teammates, the clock finally struck twelve on their improbable Olympic journey with seven minutes of gameplay remaining. With an overtime period was on the horizon, Georgijs Pujacs was levied a slashing penalty that would set the table for Shea Weber's heroics.
On the power play both he and Drew Dougthy quarterbacked a well executed man advantage that culminated in a Weber slap shot finding twine behind Gudlevskis to earn Canada a tightly contested win. Carey Price shut the door down the final few minutes as the Canadians punched their ticket to a semifinal meeting with the United States.
|57 (3.51%)||SHOTS||16 (6.25%)|
|15 (.937%)||SAVES||55 (.964%)|
Now, here's a look in at the three other Quarterfinal games:
Sweden 5 - 0 Slovenia
Recap: Unfortunately for fans of Slovenia, their Olympic Games would come to an end when they ran into a top ranking Swedish squad. Backstopped by a Henrik Lundqvist shutout, Sweden also relied on goals from Alex Steen (1), Daniel Sedin (1) and Carl Hagelin (2) to easily dispatch of an upstart Slovenian squad.
|38 (13.16%)||SHOTS||19 (0.00%)|
|19 (1.000%)||SAVES||33 (.868%)|
Finland 3 - 1 Russia
Recap: Despite falling behind by an early Ilya Kovalchuk goal, Finland responded to the tune of three unanswered goals -- including a game winner by Teemu Selanne -- to upset the favourite Russians, ending their tournament. The Finns played their system to perfection and Tuukka Rask was sound in the win. For Russia, their top players in Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin were unable to create the offense required for a comeback as they would succumb in the Quarterfinals in back-to-back Olympics.
|22 (13.64%)||SHOTS||38 (2.63%)|
|37 (.973%)||SAVES||19 (.863%)|
United States 5 - 2 Czech Republic
Recap: After allowing four goals on twelve shots, Ondrej Pavelec was pulled in favour of Alexander Salak in the Czechs Quarterfinal game. Alas, it was too little too late as the USA would cruise to a 5-2 victory, earning a Semifinal meeting with Canada. David Backes finished with a two point game including the game winning goal for the Americans. Jonathan Quick continued his strong tournament by making twenty-one saves.
|25 (20.00%)||SHOTS||23 (8.70%)|
|21 (.913%)||SAVES||20 (.800%)|