HALIFAX, Canada (Reuters) - Canada has written the perfect script to the ice hockey world championship, taking an unbeaten record into Wednesday’s quarter-finals.
But the hockey-mad country knows three more wins are required starting with Norway if they are to pen a happy ending to the first world championship staged on Canadian ice.
Russia also enter the final eight with an unblemished record and would like nothing better than to end their long-time rivals’ title dreams but cannot look that far ahead with quarter-final opponents Switzerland planning quick revenge for
defeat in their final qualification game.
The U.S. will also be seeking retribution when they meet Finland for the second time in four days in a rematch of an ill-tempered 3-2 loss that ended with 202 minutes in penalties and three players handed one game suspensions.
The other quarter-final matchup will pit Olympic champions Sweden against the Czech Republic.
Canada have not lost at the worlds since falling to Finland in the bronze medal game at the 2006 championships, stringing together 15 consecutive wins but it will count for little if they cannot extend the streak to 16 against Norway.
While Canada have captured a record 24 titles and Norway will be making their first quarter-final appearance, the defending champions will be wary of the Norwegians, who looked poised to pull off the upset of tournament until Rick Nash scored with less than four minutes to play to lift the hosts to a 2-1 win.
”The players feel they can play against Canada,“ said Norwegian assistant coach George Kingston. ”Hopefully we can play another good game of defense and keep Canada a little frustrated.
Norway will face the daunting tasks of trying to defuse the tournament’s most potent attack, led by Ottawa Senators sniper Dany Heatley with a championship high nine goals.
Russia have also survived a few scares with three of their six wins coming by a single goal but remain on track to end an embarrassing 15-year gold medal drought.
Their quarter-final clash will pit Swiss team work against an all-star Russian lineup led by NHL scoring champion and MVP nominee Alexander Ovechkin and Vezina trophy finalist netminder Evgeni Nabokov.
Editing by Clare Lovell