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Canada set up ice hockey final clash with United States

Canada ice hockey team

Canada squeeze into ice hockey final after scare

Canada squeezed to a 3-2 semi-final victory over Slovakia to set up an eagerly anticipated final against the United States in the men's ice hockey.

Goals from Patrick Marleau, Brenden Morrow and Ryan Getzlaf saw Canada storm into a 3-0 lead only for Slovakia to mount a fine third-period comeback.

But Canada survived a frantic finale to reach the final against a US side which beat them 5-3 in the round-robin stage.

The US sealed their place in the final courtesy of a 6-1 win over Finland.

All six of the US goals came in a devastating 13-minute spell in the first period, rendering the rest of the match as something of a non-contest.

"We came out fast and surprised them with our speed. We couldn't have asked for a better start," said US coach Ron Wilson, who is trying to guide his players to a first Olympic title since the 'Miracle on Ice' back in 1980.

This is going to be our biggest test yet

Canada's Sidney Crosby

"I just hope we haven't peaked two days too early."

Canada's men will hope to follow the example set by the women's team on Thursday, with Marie-Philip Poulin and company storming to a 2-0 win over the US to take gold.

The pressure is very much on for Canada's men, with the ice hockey-mad nation desperate for the Olympic gold medal they last won in 2002.

With the surprise 5-3 defeat in the robin-robin stage still fresh in the memory, Canada are not lacking in motivation.

"I can't wait," said Canada forward Jarome Iginla.

"We love the chance of playing them again. There's a lot of rivalries with them - from world juniors through the ladies. They beat us. Now we have the opportunity to play them again.

"It's going to be exciting, for the gold medal."

Iginla's team-mate Sidney Crosby added: "I don't know if you need revenge when you are in the final.

"You probably don't need any more motivation than that. This is going to be our biggest test yet."

And Mike Babcock's team will have to tighten up defensively after almost allowing a 3-0 lead to slip against the underdogs in the semi.

Morrow and Marleau scored first-period goals to put Canada in charge and Getzlaf's third in the second period seemed to have made it plain sailing for the home side.

Lubomir Visnovsky and Pavol Demitra
Lubomir Visnovsky and Pavol Demitra react on the final buzzer

But goals from Lubomir Visnovsky and Michal Handzus in the third period ensured the fanatical home supporters were on their edge of their seat during the closing minutes.

And Slovakia, who had beaten top-ranked Russia in the group stage before knocking out defending champions Sweden in the quarter-finals, came within inches of taking the host nation into overtime.

With the Slovakia goalkeeper substituted in favour of an extra attacker and a crowded goal crease, Pavol Demitra found space but could not clear the trailing pad of Canada's Roberto Luongo with his close-range effort.

"You have to give them a lot of credit they didn't quit. It was great to see that buzzer go off," said Iginla.

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see also
Canada outclass US to take gold
26 Feb 10 |  Ice hockey
Canada thrash Russia to make semi
25 Feb 10 |  Ice hockey
Canada issue celebration apology
26 Feb 10 |  Ice hockey
In pictures: Sporting excess
26 Feb 10 |  In Pictures
Canada's ice hockey obsession
21 Feb 10 |  Ice hockey
Winter Olympics weather
26 Feb 10 |  Vancouver 2010

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