Canadian men's hockey team couldn't match German consistency, work ethic
Upset in semifinal squashes potential gold-medal matchup between Canada and OAR
By Tim Wharnsby, CBC Sports
There will be no gold-medal game for the Canadian men's Olympic hockey team.
It seemed like such a certainty Canada would clash with the Olympic Athletes from Russia in the final at the Pyeongchang Olympics. But nobody told the Germans they were supposed to roll over. They showed they were worthy of advancing to the semifinals with their 4-3 win in overtime over Sweden, and proved themselves once again against Canada.
The Canadians instead find themselves preparing to play for bronze against the Czech Republic on Saturday (7:10 a.m. ET) after a stunning 4-3 loss to Germany in the semifinals.
"There is no reason for it," Canadian forward Andrew Ebbett said. "It is the Olympic semifinal and a chance to play for the gold, and we just did not bring it in the first 20 minutes and they were ready. We dug ourselves a hole and could not get out of it."
The Canadians can partly blame their plight on how well the Germans performed, how well they blocked shots, how swiftly they moved the puck out of their end so Canada could not establish a forecheck and how they made the most of their limited scoring chances.
Germany's 33-year-old goalie Danny Aus Den Birken was brilliant, too. He faced 31 shots, compared to Canada's Kevin Poulin, who wasn't as busy with 15 shots.
The Canadians, however, mostly should blame themselves for their misery. They were undisciplined. They were loose with their decision-making and tight with their playmaking.
They had difficulty advancing the puck up the ice and sloppy passes led to German goals. Canada also was outworked.
"We did not match their work ethic," Canadian centre Derek Roy said. "It stings a lot. It is not a good feeling to lose a game like that."
Never had to play from behind
The knock on this Canadian team was it was going to be offensively challenged. With the lack of a pure sniper or two, who was going to score the goals?
But this group of players found a way around their goal-scoring deficiency. They could play a tight-checking game, they could play physical and an up-tempo game that would put pressure on the opposition. They could score just enough goals to win.
They also didn't fall behind. They hadn't trailed in a game until Germany went ahead 1-0 on a 5-on-3 power play. Brooks Macek, born and raised in Winnipeg, did the damage. The former Calgary Hitmen right wing was drafted in the sixth round in 2010 by the Detroit Red Wings and has played in Germany the past five years.
When Germany went ahead 2-0 and then 3-0 before the second period was seven minutes old, you just knew this Canadian team was in trouble because of its lack of offensive ability.
The killer was after Canadian forward Gilbert Brule drilled home a power-play goal to make it 3-1 midway through the second period: Canadian teammate Mason Raymond couldn't cash in on a 2-on-1 break, allowing Germany to rebuilt its three-goal lead four minutes later.
Brule was a central figure in this game. He couldn't catch up to Frank Mauer on Germany's third goal that was the result of a sloppy Canadian turnover in the neutral zone.
Less than 30 seconds after Germany made it 4-1, Brule was kicked out of the game for a head shot on Germany's David Wolf. Brule's teammates were able to kill off the five-minute major penalty, but it was five minutes that disrupted Canada's comeback attempt.
"A couple of penalties early on, and the second period we were in the box the whole game on," Ebbett said. "It is hard to win when you kill penalties all the time."
Canada put forth a determined effort in the final 20 minutes with goals from defenceman Mat Robinson, probably Canada's best player in the game, and Roy to make it 4-3.
The Canadians had time on their side. There still was 10:18 remaining after the Roy goal, but Germany found its game again to hang on for the win.
"It stings a lot," Canadian forward Rob Klinkhammer said. "Right now with the opportunity we had, we let a big one get away from us. We will let it sting a little and go from there."