Four Years Later And One Round Earlier, The Game Ends The Same
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
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And I'm Audie Cornish.
For the second day in a row, there was heartbreak in Sochi for American hockey. Yesterday, the U.S. women's team fell to Canada. Today, it was the men's turn losing in the Olympic semifinals. Canada now goes on to fight for the gold medal in men's hockey while Team USA can still get the bronze. Today's match was supposed to be an opportunity for the Americans to avenge their loss to Canada in the Olympics four years ago. But as NPR's Robert Smith reports, Canada wasn't going to let that happen.
ROBERT SMITH, BYLINE: In 1921, a Canadian military man, Lieutenant Colonel James "Buster" Sutherland Brown, came up with a plan for Canada to invade the United States of America. Just in case the Americans ever got too aggressive, ever attacked, Canada was going to strike back. It was called Defence Scheme No. 1, and it involved Canadian troops pouring across the border and taking places like Seattle, Minneapolis, Fargo, Albany. Canadian Defence Scheme No. 1 mothballed, never needed. Canada figured out they could use ice hockey instead.
In the Olympic hockey tournament, Canada had definitely felt a lot of American provocation. Team USA was simply playing better hockey, racking up goals against Slovakia and Slovenia. Team Canada is the defending champion, yet they've had trouble scoring all week. The game today was the moment all of that had to change, and the Canada fans packed the Bolshoy Ice Dome - a whole deciduous forest worth of maple leafs. American fans like Shaun Baker of St. Louis, Missouri, were getting drowned out by the red menace.
SHAUN BAKER: We're outnumbered 5 to 1. And then the Russians are rooting for the Canadians as well, so we're outnumbered 20 to 1.
SMITH: Is that OK?
BAKER: I'm rooting for us.
SMITH: And when the game began, the Canadians met the aggressive U.S. team with the planned counterattack. It was an intense game - lots of shots up and down the ice. But for the first period, neither team could score. David Craig grew up outside Toronto, and he says it seems like in the Olympics, everyone has trouble getting the puck into the net.
DAVID CRAIG: Sometimes the puck doesn't bounce your way. I mean, we should have the best offensive squad in the world. If you look at Russia, they had trouble scoring, too. It's great goaltending, great goaltending.
SMITH: So it makes less exciting? No scores?
CRAIG: No, not at all. No. As a Canadian, you like the defense. My son plays defense. So I like a good defensive game.
SMITH: You know, Canadians may say they are aficionados of defense, but they sure seemed relieved in the second period when Jamie Benn flicked it in for Team Canada.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)
SMITH: And then, the trench warfare began. The teams were so evenly matched that the score stayed one-nothing. It was easy to see that every player out there on the ice gets his paycheck from the National Hockey League. These are the guys who normally share locker rooms looking to get some sort of edge against each other. It was frustrating for the fans, too. Giovanni Barroni came out from Long Beach, California. He's a big L.A. Kings guy.
GIOVANNI BARRONI: We need more shots. We definitely need more shots. That's the bottom line. Shots amount to goals, rebounds, lucky chances. When you don't play, like, a best-of-seven series and you only have a one-game elimination, anything can happen. You just got to shoot at the net.
SMITH: But the game stayed 1-0. The Canadians simply had more control. The Americans had plenty of chances to score, but it never worked out for them. The high-scoring Team USA that arrived in Sochi had disappeared, and become just another country learning its hockey lesson from Canada. After the game, Brad Wilson from Butte, Montana had draped an American flag over his head for some alone time.
BRAD WILSON: In our sport, we've been losing to Canada for the past couple of years so...
SMITH: Some would say for decades.
WILSON: Yeah, exactly. It sucks to lose to them twice in two nights.
SMITH: The Canadian fans and the players didn't gloat. It seemed like they weren't even thinking of the USA because their job isn't over. They have a gold medal match against Sweden on Sunday. And Marc-Edouard Vlasic from Team Canada says they can't rest until then.
MARC-EDOUARD VLASIC: Everybody wants to beat Canada, you know, when you come to these tournaments. And now we're in the gold medal game. So it doesn't matter how you get there as long as you get there and you win.
SMITH: No longer an option for the Americans. They will play for the bronze medal on Saturday against Finland. Robert Smith, NPR News, Sochi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.