Russian to a win

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- Ever think you'd see a Canadian crowd cheering for Russia?

Against the U.S.A.? In hockey?

The deep thinkers on the op-ed pages might be able to delve into what that might mean in today's world. But here last night it meant Canadian fans picked their poison for tomorrow's gold medal game. And it might be one of those 'Be careful what you wish for' deals.

With a 5-1 Russian win over the U.S.A., for the second straight year it will be a Canada-Russia final at the world junior.

Canada won last year's game 6-1 and can win for back-to-back golds for the first time since 1996 and 1997.

FOURTH TIME IN LAST FIVE YEARS

It'll be a Canada-Russia final for the fourth time in the last five years. The Russians won in 2002 and again in 2003 - the latter being the last time the event was held on Canadian ice (in Halifax).

Two of Canada's 11 world junior titles have come from wins over the Russians in the final and three more before against the old USSR. Russia's three world titles, since the Iron Curtain came down, were against Canada.

It was no great surprise when the crowd in G.M. Place, which had just watched Canada defeat Finland 4-0 to get to the gold medal game, offered a chorus of boos every time American defenceman Jack Johnson touched the puck in the first period.

Johnson went through the booing the night before in the quarterfinal after the incident when he elbowed Steve Downie while Kyle Chipchura was scoring into an empty net in Canada's 3-2 win over the Americans.

Strange that an incident which didn't draw a match penalty cause that sort of reaction but Vancouver fans have refrained from giving the same treatment to Canucks' Todd Bertuzzi, who only gets that sort of treatment on the road for his despicable deed. But that's another story.

The Americans have been booed throughout the tournament here. But who thought it would happen against the Russians?

"If they cheer for the Russians I'll be very disappointed," said U.S. coach Walt Kyle before the game.

"I'll have trouble crossing the border again if that's the case."

When Nikolai Kulemin scored the first goal of the game for Russia at 12:32 of the first period, the crowd not only exploded, most of them were on their feet.

And when the same Kulemin - a player who had been suspended for two games earlier in the tournament - went coast-to-coast and scored again to open the third period, the crowd responded the same.

While the Americans came back with a goal by Jack Skille on Russian goalie Anton Khudobin of the Saskatoon Blades, the Russians sent the fans - if not necessarily the Team Canada brain trust - home happy when Alexei Emelin, Sergei Shirokov and Nikolai Lemityugin put the game totally out of reach.

HAPPY TO BE IN GOLD MEDAL GAME

Canadian players were just happy to be in the gold medal game without caring who they'd be playing it against.

"The whole country is going to be watching and everyone is going to be counting on us," said Blake Comeau, who along with Kris Russell, Kris Letang and Andrew Cogliano scored the goals in Canada's win.

That win had goals in the final minute of both the first and second periods to give Canada a 2-0 lead to the third.

"We have a chance of winning it if we play the way we have to and not give them a whole lot. I think everyone will be disappointed if we don't end up getting what we want."


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