SOCHI, Russia — U.S. defenseman Ryan Suter cut through the postgame blather about playing hard and having opportunities and coming up short in the semifinals of the men’s Olympic hockey tournament Friday.
“We didn’t show up to play,” Suter said. “It’s kind of frustrating. We sat back. We were passive. You can’t play scared. I thought we sat on our heels and just didn’t take it to them at all.”
The other possibility? Team Canada is just that much better than Team USA.
The score was 1-0, but if it’s possible for one team to be clearly superior in a one-goal game, this was Exhibit A. Canada kept the puck on the Americans’ end for long stretches, smothered penalties and throttled Team USA’s potent offense.
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For all the talk about how big and fast the Americans were, Canada played bigger and faster.
“I think we were the first team that could skate with them in this tournament,” Canada’s Matt Duchene said. “Even the Russians didn’t play them as hard as we did.”
Team Canada advanced to the gold-medal game against Sweden on Sunday, while the United States faces Finland for the bronze medal Saturday. Sweden beat Finland 2-1 in the other semifinal at the Bolshoy Ice Dome.
“We have one more chance to win a medal and make this trip worth it,” David Backes said.
For the Americans, it was yet another bitter pill administered by their neighbors to the north.
Four years ago, with 27 million of Canada’s 33 million citizens tuned in, Sidney Crosby scored the golden goal against Team USA in overtime in Vancouver. And on Thursday, the U.S. women lost to Canada in the gold-medal game for the third time in the past four Olympics.
“I always tell Canadians and nobody believes me: It’s hard to win,” said Mike Babcock, Canada’s men’s coach. “You don’t just put your country’s uniform on and win. It’s hard. You have to line up the moon and stars to win. People don’t believe that in Canada, but it’s a fact.”
The men’s semifinal played out much the way U.S. coach Dan Bylsma envisioned it would, but with a different result.
“We are not going to try to outshoot a team like Canada,” he said the day before the game. “We are going in with a blue-collar mentality, to outwork them.”
Instead, the Americans got outworked. They couldn’t get untracked on their power play, had a hard time putting their offense together and played defense for long stretches. Zach Parise got eight shots and Phil Kessel took four, but no one else got more than three.
Jamie Benn scored the game’s lone goal early in the second period.
Both goalies were outstanding with Team USA’s Jonathan Quick stopping 36 of 37 shots and Carey Price turning back all 31 shots by the Americans.