Russia on track, Canada swerve off course

Mon Feb 22, 2010 3:41am EST
 
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By Steve Keating

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Russia got their gold medal plans back on track while Canada swerved off course with a shock loss to the U.S. that sent a shudder rumbling across the Great White North on Olympic ice hockey's Super Sunday.

For hockey-mad Canadians, who have been dreaming about hockey gold since the day Vancouver was selected to host the 2010 Winter Games, a 5-3 loss to the young Americans was a sobering if not fatal wake-up call.

While Russia, the United States, Finland and Olympic champions Sweden all move directly to the quarter-finals, Canada will now have to take the long road to the gold medal contest and play a sudden death qualification game on Tuesday against Germany to earn a place in the last eight.

Before Canada sputtered, Russia's Big Red Machine was picking up speed again after a defeat to Slovakia by beating the Czech Republic 4-2 in a rematch of the 1998 Nagano gold medal final to grab top spot in Group B.

Sweden, who beat Finland to take the Olympic crown in Turin four years ago, showed they have lost none of their golden touch either, cruising past their Nordic rivals 3-0 to notch a third straight win to top Group C.

Despite suffering their first loss of the preliminary round, the Finns will follow the Swedes directly into the last eight having posted the best second-place record.

'TOURNAMENT STARTS'

"Everything is ahead, now the tournament starts," said Finnish forward Teemu Selanne, the Olympics' all-time leading scorer. "There are no easy games.   Continued...