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The quarterfinals of the men’s Olympic ice hockey tournament were completed on Wednesday and while the higher seeds won each of the four games, there were certainly a lot of surprises during the games that will be worth keeping an eye on moving forward in the semis. Both semifinal games will feature fierce rivals with Finland taking on top seeded Sweden in the first game and the United States facing off in a rematch of 2010’s gold medal game against Canada.
(4) Finland vs. (1) Sweden Friday, Feb. 21 at 7am, NBCSN
Yet again the Finns looked very impressive against the host Russians, winning 3-1, and yet again the Swedes got off to a slow start that had the hockey world abuzz about the potential for an upset before pulling away in the third period to a 5-0 win against the underdogs from Slovenia. Now the two rivals will meet for the first time in the tournament with a spot in the gold medal game. If you are hoping for a lot of goals, you might as well just stay in bed and catch the highlights upon waking up; Finland’s Tuukka Rask and Sweden’s Henrik Lundqvist are playing their best hockey in recent memory right now. Sweden has just barely been squeaking out victories against teams who were unable to prove themselves in the tournament. If they continue to sleep through the first two periods like they’ve been doing, they won’t stand a chance against a very balanced and solid Finnish squad. Finland moves on to the gold medal game in a minor upset, 2-0.
(3) Canada vs. (2) United States Friday, Feb. 21 at noon, NBCSN
Just as is the case in the other semifinal, both teams to advance to this game continue trending in opposite directions, as one, in this case the United States, continues to impress with strong sixty-minute efforts, and the other, Canada, continues to narrowly avoid upsets of colossal proportions. The Americans came out flying to the tune of three first period goals in their 5-2 quarterfinal win over the Czech Republic, while the Canadians needed yet another goal from a defenseman (Shea Weber) with under seven minutes to go to escape against tiny Latvia. The final shot total was 57-16 in favor of Canada but in order to win against an elite team like the United States you really need to capitalize on your scoring chances when you get them. The Canadians will certainly not be able to muster 57 shots against the Americans, who have been one of the best defensive teams in the tournament. The Canadians have made a habit of playing to the level of their opponents in this tournament, however, having beaten the Finns in overtime, and against their hated rivals and neighbors to the south, I expect their best effort of the tournament on Friday. The key to this game however will be whether the American offense can continue to produce at the same impressive pace it has all tournament. With 19 goals, the Americans lead the tournament in scoring and I think this will continue again in this game. The United States will move on to face the Finns thanks to a 4-2 victory over its bitter rival Canada.