Canada and Russia set to clash in showdown for gold

Sat May 17, 2008 5:54pm EDT
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By Steve Keating

QUEBEC CITY (Reuters) - Canada, world champions a record 24 times, have the opportunity to win the title on home soil for the first time on Sunday in a showdown with arch-rivals Russia.

The Canadians, bidding to become the first host country to claim the title since the Soviet Union in Moscow in 1986, and Russia have reached the final with unbeaten records, providing a dream matchup for the International Ice Hockey Federation's 100th anniversary celebrations.

Riding a wave of momentum that has been building since 2006, Canada have strung together 17 consecutive wins since losing to Finland in the bronze medal game two years ago.

"We have the ability to turn up the tempo when we have to," said Canada coach Ken Hitchcock. "When we get pushed we respond. We have done that all tournament.

"We've been able to find another gear when we've had to.

"Whenever we get pushed we have another gear we can go to."

A gold medal would hold no less significance for Russia, a win heralding a possible return to the glory days of the Soviet Union when the Big Red Machine ruled supreme over international hockey.

Since the break-up of the Soviet Union, Russian hockey has fallen on lean times, advancing to the gold medal game for just the second time since last winning the championship in 1993.   Continued...

<p>Canada's coach Ken Hitchcock (C) directs his team during their semi-final game against Sweden at the 2008 World Hockey Championships in Quebec City, May 16, 2008. REUTERS/Mathieu Belanger</p>