Canada to go for gold again

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 6:12 PM ET

Sidney Crosby, Michael Richards and nine other members of Canada's junior team learned the harsh reality of failing to go all out for 60 minutes in the final of the world junior hockey championship last winter. The sick feeling that enveloped the Canadians when they blew a two-goal lead against the U.S. is unlikely to occur again tomorrow if they perform on the level they did last night in a suffocating 3-1 win against the Czech Republic here in Grand Forks, N.D.

For the fourth consecutive year, Canada will compete for the gold medal at the worlds after holding the Czechs to just 11 shots in the quarter-final. One year ago, Canada was 20 minutes away from its first gold since 1997 when the U.S. scored three times in the third period to prolong Canada's drought.

LEARNED

"We learned that we can't take any time off," said Crosby, who was a force yesterday and set up Patrice Bergeron for Canada's third goal. "We are happy to have the second chance. We all realize how hard it is to get to this point, but by no means is anything finished.

"The hardest climb is here, and (the gold-medal game) is going to be right up there for the rest of our lives."

Canada will face Russia, which defeated the U.S. 7-2 in the other semi-final last night. The Americans will face the Czechs for the bronze.

Jeff Carter and Nigel Dawes also scored for Canada, which held the Czechs to two shots in each of the first two periods. Canada's record for fewest shots against at the world junior championship is six.

If not for Czech goalie Marek Schwarz, a St. Louis Blues prospect who plays for the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League, the margin of victory would have been much wider. Schwarz had to make 39 saves.

Defencemen Shea Weber and Dion Phaneuf were excellent for Canada, crunching Czech players at every turn.

Still, the Canadian players felt it was their best challenge since the tournament started.

"Our whole game was tested from the power play, to the penalty kill, to five-on-five situations," said Richards, who has been drawing rave reviews from scouts for his stellar play. "Having a game like that really helps out. It builds us up for the gold-medal game. It's nice to get back to it."

If the lack of work for goaltender Jeff Glass is a concern for Brent Sutter, the coach is not showing it. And the netminder himself doesn't seem to be concerned. Rostislav Olesz scored for the Czech Republic last night when he beat Glass between the legs.

"I am ready for whatever happens, whether it is a few shots or a lot," Glass said.

Czech defenceman Ladislav Smid predicted Canada would end its gold-medal drought tomorrow.

"Canada is a very strong team," Smid said through an interpreter. "They're not going to let the gold medal go away."


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