Canada gets crack at Russia
SCOTT FISHER, QMI Agency
CALGARY - Canada-Russia.
It doesn't matter what level of hockey you're talking about, it gets the blood boiling.
And recent history does nothing but throw gas on the flames.
There isn't a Canadian hockey fan on the planet who doesn't want revenge for last year's gold-medal collapse.
And the Russians are intent on proving their five-goal comeback was no fluke.
Russian superstar Evgeni Kuznetsov, the lone returning player from last year, has said beating Canada has been his goal from Day 1.
"That's why I'm here," Kuznetsov said. "I came just for that.
Forward Ryan Strome has played against the Russians at the under-17 worlds.
He said there will be no lack of emotion Tuesday night when him and the Canucks face the Russians in one semifinal of the world junior hockey championship (7 p.m. MT, Saddledome).
"You get a little extra jump, for sure," Strome said. "But at this point in the tournament, if you don't have some extra jump, just sit in the dressing room."
Still, the Canada-Russia rivalry always brings with it a little extra fire.
Strome grew up knowing Russia is always the team to beat.
"I think every Canadian kid does," Strome said. "The 2005 world juniors was my first real taste of the Canada-Russia rivalry."
Canada beat Russia for the gold medal that year. It was the first of five straight victories over the Russians prior to last year's "¦ ahem "¦ hiccup.
Hockey's two oldest rivals have met in the gold-medal game six times since 2002.
Many expected a rematch for all the marbles again this year, but the Russians were forced to take a detour through the quarterfinals.
Canadian forward Boone Jenner hasn't been able to see much of the Russians prior to Monday's quarterfinal tilt against the Czechs.
"We saw the last bit of the Sweden game," Jenner said. "Russia, obviously, has a great team."
Jenner, Canada's most physical forward, is looking forward to getting the crowd jumping against the Russians.
"Canada and Russia was always a big rivalry," Jenner said. "It always seems to be a good game.
"It would be kinda cool to play in a game like that."
The U.S.-Canada rivalry has gained steam since the mid-90s, and, for forward Freddie Hamilton, it's the Americans who fuel his fire.
"It's both, but for me, the States are a pretty big rival," Hamilton said. "That's just me, personally.
"Growing up, I played against a lot of them in tournaments. So they were my biggest rivalry."
The Canucks took care of that rivalry with a 3-2 win over Team USA on New Year's Eve.
One down, one to go.
"(All the fans) want to see Canada beat Russia," Hamilton said. "We played against a lot of them in the Super Series.
"Playing Russia will get everybody excited."
Strome said their final preliminary-round game was the perfect tuneup to face the Russians.
"I think we're ready," Strome said. "We had a good test against the Americans.
"It was good for us to play in a high-emotion game and be in a pressure situation."
The pressure will be cranked up several more notches Tuesday night.
On Twitter: @SUNScottFisher