Canada’s topsy-turvy Olympics was dealt a heavy blow Friday night as Germany shocked the two-time defending Olympic champions 4-3 in the men’s hockey semifinals.
The loss came a day after Canada’s women’s hockey team was denied a fifth straight gold in a shootout against the rival Americans and amid the despair of having no chance at medals in men’s or women’s curling.
“They came out ready to play,” Canada forward Rob Klinkhammer said. “We didn’t. They were the better team.”
Without NHL stars Sidney Crosby and Drew Doughty, elite goaltender Carey Price – and certainly don’t forget Stanley Cup-winning coach Mike Babcock – Canada was skated out of the building by coach Marco Sturm’s team that now faces an even stiffer test in the favored Russians in Sunday’s final.
After winning back-to-back gold medals in Vancouver in 2010 and Sochi in 2014, and three of the past four dating to 2002, Canada’s self-described band of journeymen will play the Czech Republic for bronze on Saturday.
“We did not match their work ethic,” Canada forward Derek Roy said. “It stings a lot. It is not a good feeling to lose a game like that.”
Canada has only settled for a bronze medal twice in 21 previous Olympic men’s hockey tournaments and took home gold or silver in each of the six games with women’s hockey.
“We obviously let a big one get away from us,” Klinkhammer said.
Canada will likely play for bronze without top-liner Gilbert Brule, who was ejected for a brutal hit to the head of David Wolf at center ice, one of several bad penalties by an uncharacteristically undisciplined team coached by Willie Desjardins.
Desjardins and his staff made some adjustments at the first intermission, but never called a timeout when Germany went up 3-0 or 4-1. Kevin Poulin was starting in net because No. 1 goalie Ben Scrivens injured his shoulder/collarbone area in a collision in the quarterfinal against Finland, and he allowed goals scored by Brooks Macek, Matthias Plachta, Frank Mauer and Patrick Hager on 15 shots.
Poulin refused to speak to reporters afterward. There weren’t many answers for what happened to the team that had looked dominant against Finland.
“I don’t know,” forward Andrew Ebbett said. “Just a couple penalties there early on. We were in the box the whole second period. It’s tough to win a hockey game when you’re killing penalties that whole time. We maybe needed two, three, five more minutes there at the end maybe to tie it up, but it was too late.”
Canada outshot Germany 15-1 in the third period but couldn’t climb all the way back after digging a deep hole. It started with high-sticking and faceoff violation penalties 36 seconds apart and unraveled when Macek scored.
He’s a dual citizen who was born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, but didn’t look the slightest bit conflicted as he pumped his fist following a 5-on-3 power-play goal. A good player with the Western Hockey League’s Tri-City Americans and Calgary Hitmen, Macek looked like a star playing in the Olympics against Canada.
Danny aus den Birken was good again in net in making 28 saves, but Canada also struggled to break Germany’s suffocating neutral-zone trap to even get into the offensive zone for quality scoring chances and couldn’t cash in when there.
Canada lost in the quarterfinals in Turin in 2006 with NHL players on its roster, but this loss is still hard to take for a nation that has already set a national Winter Games medals record with 27. Canada won four gold medals in freestyle skiing and two in figure skating, where it has seven overall. Scott Moir, Tessa Virtue and Kelsey Serwa have been among Canada’s heroes but the curling and hockey teams so intertwined with the nation’s sporting identity came away disappointed.
“No reason for it,” Ebett said. “It’s Olympic semifinal, chance to play for the gold and we just didn’t bring it in the first 20 minutes and they obviously were ready.”