Game fired by emotion

PAUL FRIESEN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 3:57 PM ET

PARDUBICE, Czech Republic -- Same tournament, same teams, same game -- but the same incredible finish?

That'll be awfully tough to duplicate.

As Canada and the U.S. prepared to square off in today's World Junior Hockey Championship semifinal (TSN, 1 p.m. MT), last year's semi between the two, and the bitter rivalry this matchup has become, was the topic of conversation yesterday.

"It inspires a bunch of people," Team Canada's Kyle Turris said of the 2-1, shootout victory that propelled the Canucks into the gold-medal game a year ago. "We're going to use everything we can to get us going. I'm sure we'll see a video of it."

One of the more memorable finishes in Canadian international hockey history, Turris has already watched that game several times.

Only two players from this year's team were in Sweden when Winnipeg's Jonathan Toews kept scoring shootout goals, and the U.S. kept answering, for what seemed like an eternity.

"It was scary," Team Canada captain Karl Alzner recalled. "Because I knew I'm not shooting. It comes down to just relying on your teammates."

But he had to watch.

Unlike Blake Geoffrion of Team USA, one of six returning Americans, who says he couldn't bear to look.

"I put my head down" said Geoffrion. "I couldn't take it.

"If we scored, I knew from the cheers. If we didn't score, I could tell by the emotion on the bench."

Emotion that bubbled over when the U.S. finally failed to match Toews' wizardry, the game decided after three periods, overtime and seven shootouts each. That's how fine a line it was between Canada's gold and the bronze won by the Yanks, 12 months ago.

Second-year head coach Craig Hartsburg says the moment remains stamped in his brain, and on his heart.

A LOT OF TEARS

"There were a lot of tears, to tell you the truth," Hartsburg said. "That's all anybody really wants to talk about. The Russian game (for the gold) was kind of a secondary game."

Shootout or not, today's game promises to be brimming with emotion, too, if only because these two teams despise each other.

Teammates during the season become enemies when defending the flag. That's just the way it is.

The Americans were reluctant to talk about the rivalry, touting the "just another game" tripe promoted by their head coach, John Hynes.

But Turris, teammates and friends, almost, with two Team USA players at the University of Wisconsin (Geoffrion and Jamie McBain), revealed how deep this rivalry goes -- and how far back the trash talk for this World Junior started.

"We've been talking about this the past couple of months," Turris said. "There was a lot of trash-talking. And it's still going on. They've been saying they're going to take us this year ... kill us.

"They're going to be in for a war. I'm sure there's going to be some words said on the ice that we don't really mean."

Nearly no subject is off limits for attack, and Team Canada forward Brad Marchand, never shy with the lip, wouldn't have it any other way.

"The big ones are mothers and girlfriends," Marchand said, going through some of the preferred insults. "I love that stuff. It's been a little tough, because we've been playing European teams and they don't really understand it."

At the root of this nastiness, best that we can tell, is the Canadian superiority complex with hockey, and the American superiority complex with everything else.

"We don't want to lose to these guys -- we're going to be on a mission," Alzner said. "They're usually better at football, better at basketball. Hockey's our thing."

Even if it takes 70 minutes and more than a dozen breakaways to prove it.


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