The Russians expected to play for the Olympic men’s hockey gold medal for the first time in 20 years.
Their opponent is quite the surprise.
Germany will play in the Olympic final in hockey for the first time ever, a country with only two bronze medals in its history _ the last in 1976.
Patrick Hager’s power-play goal at 12:31 of the second period wound up the game-winner as Germany stunned two-time defending gold medalist Canada 4-3 Friday night to set up a very unexpected gold medal game on Sunday.
After upsetting top-seeded Sweden and pulling off their latest amazing win, an elusive gold medal suddenly isn’t so far-fetched.
“Who knows? Who knows?’’ German goalie Danny Aus Den Birken said with a big smile. “If we keep fighting like this, we have nothing to lose.”
The Germans may believe in each other, but this is a country that didn’t even qualify for the Olympic men’s tournament in 2014 at Sochi. They finished 11th in Vancouver.
Coached by former NHL player Marco Sturm, the Germans scored two power-play goals against backup Canadian goalie Kevin Poulin with Ben Scrivens out injured. This wasn’t the Canada team that won gold in 2014 in Sochi or 2010 in Vancouver with a roster stocked with NHL stars.
“We didn’t know what to expect …,’’ Sturm said. “Everyone, the best players should be in Olympics. All the NHL guys should be in the Olympics. That’s just what the event is for and hopefully in the future they will be back on Olympic ice.”
For now, the Germans have capitalized in their biggest win yet after knocking off top-seeded Sweden. They had a bunch of German athletes in the Gangneung Hockey Center cheering them on.
After Canada’s last flurry was ended with the puck sent out of the offensive zone, the Germans hugged and huddled in celebration with the Canadians simply standing around in disbelief. Even the Germans on the ice may need a few hours to realize exactly what they’ve done, and Winnipeg native Brooks Macek said this win is huge.
“In Germany, I think the main sport that all the kids want to play is soccer,’’ Macek said. “And I think if there’s a ton of people watching back in Germany watching maybe it’ll push them toward ice hockey instead of soccer. So I think it’s huge for the sport.’’