GANGNEUNG, South Korea — Canada’s topsy-turvy Olympics was dealt a heavy blow Friday night as Germany shocked the two-time defending Olympic champion Canadians 4-3 in the men’s hockey semifinals on Friday.
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 men’s or women’s curling medals.
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. Veteran goaltender Vasily Koshechkin stopped all 31 shots he faced to put the “Olympic Athletes from Russia” into the final with a 3-0 victory over the Czech Republic earlier Friday.
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.
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 he never pulled goaltender Kevin Poulin or called a timeout when Germany went up 3-0 or 4-1. Poulin was starting 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.
Macek is 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 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 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 a blow for a nation that had 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 while the curling and hockey teams came away disappointed.