GAME NOTES: Canada vs. ROC (June 3)
TV: TSN | Stream: TSN Direct
As unlikely as it would have seemed 10 days ago, it is on to the playoff
Canada’s National Men’s Team, which faces off against ROC in a quarterfinal on Thursday in Riga.
For those who maybe haven’t followed along, ROC is the team representing
Russia, which is not allowed to use its name or flag
as per sanctions levied as a result of a years-long doping scandal.
Canada did just enough to book its spot in the playoff round, earning a
single point in
a 3-2 loss to Finland in the prelim finale on Tuesday. Brandon Pirri and Maxime Comtois provided
the offence and Darcy Kuemper made 29 saves for the Canadians, who sweated
out the final minutes of Germany’s 2-1 win over Latvia that officially
confirmed their invitation to the final eight.
ROC cruised into the quarterfinals with a 6-0 romp over Belarus in its
final preliminary-round contest. Two goals from Nikita Nesterov bookended a
five-goal first period and helped the team win its fourth in a row to close
out the prelims and secure first place in Group A.
The long-time rivals have not met since the 2018 worlds in Copenhagen,
Denmark. Ryan O’Reilly was the overtime hero in the quarterfinals,
scoring a power-play goal 4:57 into the extra period to send Canada to the semifinals with a 5-4 victory.
The game was as back and forth as they come; Canada jumped out to a 2-0
lead 12 minutes into the second period on goals by Colton Parayko and Ryan
Nugent-Hopkins, but the Russians pulled even before the end of the middle
frame. Twice the Canadians retook the lead in the third period, from Kyle
Turris and Pierre-Luc Dubois, but twice the Russians battled back again to
eventually force extra time.
WHAT TO WATCH
Confidence is high for the Canadians, who were written off by so many after
opening the tournament with three consecutive losses. But the dominoes fell
as they had to, and Canada is just three wins away from a 27th world title.
Heading into the playoffs as the underdogs, anything can happen – how many
upsets have been sprung by nothing-to-lose teams over the years?
For ROC, reinforcements from the NHL have arrived. Dmitri Orlov
(Washington) and Vladimir Tarasenko (St. Louis) both joined the roster in
time for the penultimate prelim game against the Swedes, with Tarasenko
scoring the shootout winner, and Sergei Bobrovsky (Florida) is expected to
get the start between the pipes against the Canadians after completing his
A LOOK BACK
This a rhetorical question, but we’ll ask it anyways – is there a better
rivalry in hockey? Canada and ROC have met 18 times at the IIHF World
Championship since the fall of the Soviet Union, with the Canadians holding
a narrow 10-8 advantage. That includes three meetings in the gold medal
game – Ilya Kovalchuk broke the hearts of Canadian fans with the overtime
winner in Quebec City
in 2008 and Ilya Bryzgalov made 37 saves to steal gold for the Russians
in 2009, but Sidney Crosby earned his IIHF Triple Gold Club membership by
captaining Canada to the top of the podium
Of course, before there was ROC, there was the Soviet Union. Canada was not
quite as successful against the Soviets, winning just five of the 35
meetings between 1954 and 1991.
All-time record: Canada leads 10-8 (2-1 in OT/SO)
Canada goals: 64
ROC goals: 56