VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Canada stormed into the Olympic men’s ice hockey quarter-finals with a morale-boosting 8-2 rout of Germany on Tuesday before setting their sights on their greatest rivals.
“We want Russia. We want Russia,” roared the capacity crowd at Canada Hockey Place as the home team flexed its muscles with the kind of hard-hitting attacking display the hockey-mad nation had been waiting for.
Canadians will not have to wait long for the game they demanded, with their team set to return to the ice on Wednesday for a heart-pumping quarter-final clash against Russia which will see one of hockey’s two superpowers and gold medal favorites make an early exit.
The bold bravado of hooting flag-waving supporters was in stark contrast to the angst-ridden days leading up to the sudden-death qualification game against Germany which was forced on Canada by their upset loss to the United States.
But the rout convinced Canadians they need not fear the mighty Russians as the mood quickly swung from one of gut-wrenching anxiety to “Bring it on.”
While the world’s two top-ranked nations will not be battling for the last gold of the Games on February 28, the stakes could not be higher with the game sure to add another chapter to hockey’s richest international rivalry.
No athletes are under greater pressure to deliver gold in Vancouver than the 23 men wearing the Maple Leaf on their sweaters.
Russia also arrived at the Games with expectations of returning home with the country’s first hockey gold since the breakup of the former-Soviet Union when the Big Red Machine ruled the Olympic ice.
”It’s going to be a challenge and we all know the rivalry and how intense it is,“ Sidney Crosby, Team Canada’s offensive lynchpin, told reporters. ”It’s going to be a great test and we’re all looking forward to it.
”We knew at some point we were going to play them and the fact it is in the quarter-finals really doesn’t change anything.
“We’re going to have to beat some great teams to get to where we want to go.”
Canada also had to beat Germany, one of the weakest teams in the competition.
Facing elimination, Canada played with energy and urgency, storming into the German zone and blasting away at netminder Thomas Greiss right from the opening faceoff.
But the Germans grimly weathered the storm, holding Canada to a 1-0 first-period lead on a goal from Joe Thornton.
With the crowd growing anxious, Shea Weber calmed nerves by blasting a slapshot into the German net to start the second period before Jarome Iginla potted a pair to get the party started.
Sidney Crosby, Mike Richards, Scott Niedermayer and Rick Nash added third-period tallies to complete the rout before Germany claimed a late consolation from Manuel Klinge.
Editing by Ed Osmond; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org