Unheralded Germany dethroned two-time defending champion Canada 4-3 in an Olympic men’s hockey semi-final shocker on Friday, advancing to their first gold-medal game against the Olympic Athletes from Russia.
A German league all-star squad collected the nation’s biggest hockey victory by stunning the Canadians while the Russians, seeking their first hockey gold since 1992, blanked the Czech Republic 3-0 to reach Sunday’s championship contest.
The Germans, familiar with one another from world championship play and coming off over-time playoff triumphs over Sweden and Switzerland, are assured of an Olympic-best result — their only prior medal being bronze in 1932, plus a bronze for West Germany in 1976.
Canada’s nightmare defeat added to the misery of a hockey-mad nation a day after the women’s team, seeking a fifth consecutive gold, lost the final to the United States in a shootout.
The Russians, with players off the nation’s two top clubs, hope to collect their first gold since the Unified Team won 26 years ago at Albertville — just weeks after the breakup of the Soviet Union.
“It would just mean everything to us,” said Russian forward Mikhail Grigorenko. “It’s huge for the players and the country.”
An Olympics without NHL talent for the first time since 1994 lived up to its billing as a wide-open affair as Europe-based talent produced surprises, none bigger than the lineup from a handful of German clubs that has improved with every game.
Germany’s Brooks Macek fired a power-play goal 14:43 into the game past Canada goaltender Kevin Poulin, who started after Ben Scrivens was benched with an injury suffered in a quarter-final victory over Finland.
Matthias Plachta and Frank Mauer followed early in the second period for a 3-0 German lead. Canada answered on Gilbert Brule’s power-play goal but Patrick Hager responded for a 4-1 Germany edge.
Mat Robinson nudged Canada closer with a goal early in the third period and Poulin stopped Dominik Kahun on a penalty shot to swing momentum Canada’s way.
Derek Roy netted a power-play goal to lift Canada within 4-3 with 10:18 remaining, Canadian supporters roaring with delight as the comeback continued.
Canada pulled Poulin for an extra attacker in the final seconds, but could not manage the equaliser despite a 15-1 shots edge in the third period, Canada matching what Germany had in the entire game.
Danny aus den Birken made 28 saves for Germany and when the final horn sounded the bench cleared to mob the netminder in celebration, as the Canadian team and fans watched in silence.
Earlier the Russians, who boast the Olympics’ most prolific attack, got second-period goals 27 seconds apart from Nikita Gusev and Vladislav Gavrikov and a late clincher from Ilya Kovalchuk, while goalie Vasili Koshechkin made 31 saves.
“He has been our best player every game,” Grigorenko said of Koshechkin. “He has been making a lot of saves. He made some huge saves.”
It sets up the first Olympic final involving Russians since they lost 1-0 to the Czechs 20 years ago.
“It’s going to be a good game and a test of our will,” Kovalchuk said. “We deserve to be there and the best team will win. We’ll be ready for sure.”
The previously unbeaten Czechs, who will play Canada for bronze on Saturday, were denied a chance at their first Olympic crown since 1998.
“It’s disappointing. One minute cost us the game,” said Czech star Martin Erat. “They played a good game. A couple of mistakes cost us.”
Russian bobsledder Nadezhda Sergeeva has tested positive for a banned substance at the Winter Olympics, Russia’s bobsleigh federation said on Friday.
“A doping test by the pilot of the Russian team Nadezhda Sergeeva on 18 February gave a positive result for a heart medicine that is on the banned list,” the federation said in a statement, adding that a previous test on February 13 was negative.
It was the fourth positive doping case of the Pyeongchang Games in South Korea.
The statement came a day after Russian curler Alexander Krushelnitsky was stripped of his Pyeongchang Winter Olympics bronze medal after admitting to doping.
A source close to the Sergeeva case said that the banned substance was trimetazidine, a medication used to treat heart pain or vision problems.
The source said that an A sample had tested positive and a B sample from the athlete would be tested on Saturday.
Sergeeva and Krushelnitsky are among 168 Russian athletes who passed rigorous testing to compete as neutrals in Pyeongchang after Russia were banned over a major doping scandal.
The athletes allowed to come to Pyeongchang are competing as neutrals under the name Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAS).
The latest doping case comes as the International Olympic Committee are considering whether to lift the Russian ban and allow their athletes to march under the Russian flag at Sunday’s closing ceremony.
When the US women’s hockey team beat Canada to win gold, they did more than just get one over their old rivals – they helped rescue Team USA’s Olympics.
Up to that point, Pyeongchang was beginning to look like a bit of a bust for the United States.
Several big American names had fallen short of expectations, and the biggest team at the Games was headed for its least successful Winter Olympics in 20 years.
Skier Mikaela Shiffrin was attempting multiple gold medals, but she finished with one gold and one silver – and also yielded her 2014 slalom title, vomiting in the process.
Highly decorated fellow skier Lindsey Vonn, in her Olympic farewell, had to settle for bronze in the downhill and finished sixth in the super-G.
Speed skater Heather Bergsma, another American heavily fancied for gold, finished well outside the medal places in all three of her individual events.
By Wednesday morning South Korean time, with five days of competition to go, America were sixth on the medals table with five golds.
After the early excitement of the 17-year-old snowboarders Red Gerard and Chloe Kim each winning gold, American media were growing alarmed.
“The disappointments and close calls for the Americans have befallen the famous and the barely known,” said USA Today, listing Shiffrin, Vonn and 18-year-old figure skater Nathan Chen, who finished without a medal.
The US won nine gold in Sochi, where Russia topped the table. But Russia’s top athletes have been been banned from Pyeongchang over a major drug scandal, meaning more opportunities for other countries.
– ‘Women stepped up’ –
But at its darkest hour, Team USA struck gold. Jessica Diggins and Kikkan Randall pulled off a shock win in the women’s team sprint free, becoming the first Americans to win an Olympic cross-country event.
David Wise, after falling twice, produced a clutch final run to win the freestyle skiing halfpipe. And then the crowning moment, when the US women’s ice hockey team beat four-time defending champions and arch-rivals Canada 3-2 in a dramatic penalties shootout.
DETHRONED! After 20 years, @TeamUSA takes down 4-time champion #CAN, 3-2, in a thrilling penalty shootout in Women's #IceHockey at #PyeongChang2018!— Olympic Channel (@olympicchannel) February 22, 2018
More results here: https://t.co/Vne8j0RWRl pic.twitter.com/KbyNBrdEVZ
Team USA consequently jumped up to fourth in the medals table with eight golds – five of them won by women.
The US still look likely to fall slightly below the forecast of Games statistics-provider Gracenote, which predicted 11 golds.
But where just a few days earlier USA Today and others had been fretting, the newspaper was now celebrating the hockey triumph as “one of the most satisfying moments in US Olympic history”.
The New York Post said America’s female competitors – led by the hockey team – “are saving the Olympics for Team USA”.
“USA Olympics was being humiliated – then women stepped up,” the newspaper said, pointing out that eight of the last 10 US medals were won by female athletes.
And it could yet get better – late Thursday the US beat the Canadians again, this time in men’s curling, to set up a gold-medal showdown against Sweden on Saturday.
Team USA needs one more victory to reach nine gold medals and equal their tally from the last three Games – and avoid their lowest return since winning six at Nagano 1998.
Ryan Hayes, an American fan dressed as Uncle Sam at the figure skating competition, said there had been “hits and misses” for the US at the Olympics.
Hits: women’s ice hockey. Misses: speed skating, he said.
“People had high expectations and when you have the largest delegation of athletes (241), it’s understandable because it’s a sheer numbers game in that respect,” said Hayes.
Provided by AFP Sport