The outstanding Men's Ice Hockey tournament will wrap up this afternoon with the Gold Medal Game between the U.S. and Canada. These two squads met last Sunday, with the U.S. taking a 5-3 victory to finish group play undefeated.
Since then, the U.S. beat Switzerland in the quarterfinals Wednesday and trounced Finland in the semis on Friday, scoring six goals in the game's first fourteen minutes. Team USA continues to get superb goaltending from Ryan Miller, who bettered Switzerland's Jonas Hiller and Finland's Mikka Kiprusoff, the only other goalies in the tournament who have come close to Miller's level of play.
As for the Canadians, their loss to the U.S. and the point lost via a shootout victory over the Swiss in group play left them with the sixth seed. With Roberto Luongo replacing Martin Brodeur between the pipes, they beat up on Germany 8-2 on Tuesday, and then faced Russia on Wednesday. What many predicted to be the eventual Gold Medal Game entering the tournament was reduced to a quarterfinal game, and the expected heavyweight match between the two deepest teams in the tournament was a laugher, with Canada winning 7-3. In the semis on Friday, Canada jumped out to an early 2-0 lead over Slovakia, then withstood a late rally to take a 3-2 victory.
Last week's match up came one day short of the thirtieth anniversary of the Miracle on Ice; today's game comes on the fiftieth anniversary of the U.S. winning gold at the 1960 Games. This is also a rematch of the 2002 Gold Medal Game, when the Canadians took gold on American soil. The U.S. looks to return the favor today.
It's tough enough to defeat a team like Canada once in this tournament, let alone twice. It's even tougher to do it when the gold medal is on the line and the entirety of the arena is behind the Canadians. But this U.S. team is talented, has had an outstanding run through this tournament, and has the best player at the most important position. That'll go a long way towards evening the odds, and anything can happen in a single game. Puck drops at 3:15 EST. Let's go USA!