COLOGNE, Germany — Canada had to overcome a vocal partisan crowd and a fired-up Germany squad to keep its chances of a third straight world hockey championship title alive.
Mark Scheifele and Jeff Skinner scored as Canada survived a scare with a tight 2-1 win over the co-host Germans in quarter-final action Thursday. The game was played in front of a deafening sold-out crowd at Cologne’s Lanxess Arena.
“It was a phenomenal environment,” said Canada’s coach Jon Cooper after the game. “The chants, the singing, and they were very respectful to both teams. They really cheered for their team. I’ll always remember being part of that.”
“It’s definitely pretty cool but honestly, you don’t really hear it during the game,” added Travis Konecny. “It’s just like playing another hockey game. Definitely during the breaks when they’re doing their chants and their drums, you hear them.”
Canada will face Russia in Cologne in the first of Saturday’s two semifinals, at 9:15 a.m. ET.
Both teams traded chances in a high-tempo first period as the Germans, who beat Latvia in a shootout Tuesday to qualify for the medal round for a second straight year, weren’t afraid to play a physical game against Canada.
“They were able to really slow us down with clutching and grabbing,” said Matt Duchene, “but other than that, we carried that game. Give them a lot of credit. They battled hard and the home crowd got them going.”
Scheifele finally put Canada on the board on a power play with 2:49 to play in the opening frame when he roofed a Ryan O’Reilly pass from behind the net over sprawling German netminder Philipp Grubauer.
In the second period, Canada outshot Germany 20-0 before Dennis Seidenberg directed a puck on Calvin Pickard in the dying seconds. Skinner scored his fourth goal of the tournament, and what proved to be the game-winner, when he converted a rebound off a shot from Mike Matheson with 1:59 to play in the second.
“I think frustration was starting to mount a little bit on our team,” Cooper said of the second period. “We had some possession time in the second. I think Skinner’s goal kind of calmed everybody down.”
After their comeback win on Tuesday, the Germans came out with renewed vigour in the third, determined not to leave the tournament without a fight. They generated two power plays, then Yannic Seidenberg got the Germans on the board on a short-handed breakaway with 6:39 left in regulation time.
“They kept sending their guys out of the zone looking for a breakaway so we knew they were going to try to press. They got one on us there,” said Konecny.
Unlike Tuesday’s game against Latvia, the Germans were not able to get the late equalizer as Canada survived a scare from the co-hosts.
“I thought that was a big moment for our team,” said Cooper, contrasting Canada’s response on Saturday to its game against Switzerland in the preliminary round, when a 2-0 lead after 40 minutes turned into a 3-2 overtime loss. “When (Germany) made it 2-1, instead of us giving up the second one, I thought we really controlled the play the rest of the game. It showed how our team has grown as this tournament has gone on.”
Final shots in the game were 50-20 in favour of Canada.
Finland will take on Sweden in the second semifinal on Saturday at 1:15 p.m. ET after a 2-0 upset over the United States, which finished first in Group A in the preliminary round.
The Swedes advanced with a 3-1 win over Switzerland.