Olympic Hockey Final Four
It wasn’t easy for the United States but they advanced to the medal round with a 2-0 win over Switzerland. Devils forward Zach Parise scored both goals (including one empty netter) and Ryan Miller was stellar in net, shutting the Swiss offense down. Swiss goalie Jonas Hiller played great, but the offense did not give him support in the bid for an upset. The Americans remain the only undefeated team in the tournament after the results of the quarterfinal games.
In the second quarterfinal, Russia took on Canada in a match that many projected to be a gold medal game at the beginning of the tournament. It was expected to be an epic battle between two powerhouses but was nothing close to that. The Canadians, apparently fired up over their loss to the US, came out storming, scoring three goals in the first 13 minutes of the game. They took a 4-1 lead into the intermission, before going up 6-1 early in the second. The sixth Canadian goal finally chased Russian goalie Evgeni Nabokov, whose play should not encourage San Jose Shark fans. The Russians really never got anything going, as they were down the whole game and it seemed like they did not want to focus on playing defense from the get-go. Both Mike Richards and Chris Pronger finished with an assist each.
The US’s opponent was determined in the third game of the night, between Finland and the Czech Republic. The game was a defensive struggle, going 0-0 into the third period. However, with less than 7 minutes to play in the game, and on the powerplay, Finnish defenseman (and former Flyer property) Janne Niskala shot the puck towards the net, which was redirected by Niklas Hagman to score the eventual game winner. Valtteri Filppula added an empty netter to seal the game for the Finns.
The final match of the night pitted medal favorite Sweden against Slovakia. With nothing to lose, Slovakia gave it their all against the powerful Swedes, and they prevailed in a stunner, 4-3. After a scoreless first period, the Slovaks scored two quick goals less than a minute apart by Marian Gaborik and Andrej Sekera. Sweden answered back a couple minutes with a pair of their own quick goals by Patric Hornqvist & Henrik Zetterberg. Pavol Demitra scored a powerplay goal with less than a minute to go in the period to put the Slovaks up heading into the final frame. Tomas Kopecky scored halfway through the third for the Slovaks, which was followed by a Swedish goal by Daniel Alfredsson, but Slovak goalie Jaroslav Halak held down the fort and secured the upset win for Slovakia. Former Flyer Peter Forsberg recorded an assist in what is likely his final Olympic game.
The way the semifinals shapes up guarantees a Flyer will come back from Vancouver with a medal. Kimmo Timonen’s Finnish squad takes on the U.S. at 3:00 tommorow, and Mike Richards and Chris Pronger’s Canadians play the upstart Slovaks in the second half of the doubleheader.
If you can’t wait for Olympic hockey, the U.S. women’s team and the Canadian women’s team square off for gold this afternoon.
The Flyers started practicing again today at the SkateZone. Ryan Parent and Danny Syvret are due back after the break, but just in case, the Flyers have recalled defenseman Joey Mormina from the Phantoms.
There has been no update on goaltender Ray Emery, which is leading some speculators to believe he is going to be shut down for the year.