U.S. beats Czech Republic, next face Canada at Olympics

Team USA's David Backes reacts as the puck crosses the goal line past Czech Republic's goalie...

Team USA's David Backes reacts as the puck crosses the goal line past Czech Republic's goalie Ondrej Pavelec on a shot by teammate Zach Parise (not pictured) during their men's quarterfinal hockey game at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games, Feb. 19, 2014. (BRIAN SNYDER/Reuters)

Chris Stevenson, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:10 PM ET

SOCHI, RUSSIA - The U.S. and Canada are heading toward a semifinal showdown Friday, but the paths they’ve taken to get there have been quite different.

The Americans put away the Czech Republic 5-2 on Wednesday to reach the Olympic tournament’s final four, continuing their high-scoring ways. The U.S. has now scored a tournament-leading 20 goals.

The Canadians have scored 13, but just four in their last two games. They’ve had to squeeze out a pair of victories.

Friday’s semifinal (noon, EST) will be a rematch of the gold-medal game in Vancouver four years ago, won by Canada on Sidney Crosby’s overtime goal.

“We did have a tall task today and we couldn’t look past (the Czech Republic) to another opponent or we might be shipping out tonight,” said American forward David Backes.

“It’s going to be a repeat of the gold-medal game in Vancouver. There’s not going to be any need for motivation. It’s going to be a great battle and we’ll see what happens.”

U.S. winger Max Pacioretty said he’s liked the way the American team has been trending in the tournament.

“It’s a great opportunity,” he said. “They’re obviously the favourite coming into the tournament and we’ve opened up a lot of eyes with our play, but we have more in the tank to give and to show.

“We keep getting better every game and hopefully we’ll keep getting better after this one.”

American Phil Kessel leads the tournament in scoring with eight points in four games after potting a goal against the Czechs and has combined for 18 points with linemates Joe Pavelski and James van Riemsdyk.

Pacioretty also likes what he sees from other players who have taken on roles much different than they would play with their club teams.

“It starts off the ice,” Pacioretty said. “Everyone on this team realizes you have to play for the team and check your ego at the door. All of us are the top players on our team back home and you come here and you’re asked to play different roles.

“You see everyone in the room, willing to go to the dirty areas, block shots, make hits. It’s nice to see when you see a guy like Patty Kane backchecking as hard as he can across the ice. It kind of puts things in perspective.”

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

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