Great One impressed

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 10:43 AM ET

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- The comparisons to the Great One aren't new, but this was the first time Sidney Crosby had the chance to strut his stuff in person for Wayne Gretzky. With the NHL's career scoring leader watching from a suite in the Ralph Engelstad Arena, Crosby came out with another superlative effort in helping Canada advance to the gold medal game at the 2005 World Junior Hockey Championship.

Crosby had one assist and used his explosive speed to create numerous opportunities throughout the hockey game as Canada earned a 3-1 win over the Czech Republic in yesterday's semifinal.

"For sure, it's special," said Crosby, who now has six goals and two assists in his second world junior hockey tournament.

Crosby had a glorious opportunity to open the scoring roughly two minutes into the game, but he fanned on his one-timer attempt at the side of the goal -- near the same spot he scored all five of his power play goals during the round robin.

In the second period, Crosby used his speed to pull away from a defender but was turned aside by Czech goalie Marek Schwarz as he was hauled down, drawing a penalty.

Crosby's Gretzky-like vision was on display just past the midway point of the second when he set up shop behind Schwarz and found Patrice Bergeron all alone for a highlight-reel goal.

During a pre-game press conference, Gretzky spoke of watching on TV Crosby as a 14-year-old at a tournament in California and was doling out plenty of compliments to the young phenom.

He also talked about the great expectations on the team to win a gold medal and Crosby's ability to deal with high-pressure situations.

"Sidney has been spectacular from the first game," Gretzky said. "He's handled himself tremendously, the whole team has.

"He's got tremendous hockey sense, he moves the puck very well and obviously he's got great hands. The thing that you learn at a young age, what separates really good players from average players is what you do when you don't have the puck. He seems to find openings, he seems to get in position to be in the play at all times and what's more important is that he has fun when he's playing. It's great to see."

Even if Gretzky wasn't in attendance, it was going to be an exciting game for Crosby, who faced Rimouski Oceanic linemate Zbynek Hrdel yesterday.

"He's a good friend but we know that when we're out there, we're playing for our country," Crosby said. "Obviously we're not going to go out there and spear each other. I have a lot of respect for him, for sure."


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