The Chicago Blackhawks may have suffered the elimination of another player on Wednesday as Michal Rozsival’s Czech Republic team was sent packing, but seven other Hawks remain in Sochi, and at least four of them are guaranteed to head back to the United States with medals draped around their necks.
That’s because Sweden picked up a big 5-0 victory over Slovenia on Wednesday morning in the first quarter-final matchup of the day. Both Marcus Kruger and Niklas Hjalmarsson played very well defensively in the game against the upstart Slovenian squad, and Johnny Oduya picked up an assist on Loui Eriksson’s third period tally as the Swedes scored four goals in the frame to put the game away.
In the final two games of the day, the Blackhawks’ American and Canadian representatives made their presence felt. For the Americans, it was Patrick Kane, as he picked up an assist on James van Riemsdyk’s first period goal that put the USA in front of the Czech Republic by a score of 1-0 less than two minutes in. Kane also picked up two shots on goal in the game as the United States advanced to the semi-final round on Friday.
In that game, the Americans will take on the Canadians, the squad who beat the U.S. for the gold medal in Vancouver in 2010. That squad features not only Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith, who both played in that 2010 game, but also Patrick Sharp, who finally scored his first Olympic goal on Wednesday as Canada survived a huge scare and knocked off Latvia by a score of 2-1.
Toews had several good opportunities to score in the third period of the game as the Canadians ended up with 22 shots on goal in the frame, but all he could manage was a secondary assist on Shea Weber’s game winning goal in the late stages of the contest. As for Keith, he once again was held off the scoresheet, but was instrumental in peppering Latvian goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis with shots, firing five of them on net in the victory.
For now, the Blackhawks in Sochi will turn their attention to trying to secure gold medal honors in the final two games of the tournament. Can Toews and the Canadians once again best Kane and the Americans? Can Hjalmarsson and his Swedish counterparts make their way back to the gold medal game for the first time since they won gold in the 2006 Torino Games? Only time will tell, but one thing is for certain: the two rivalry games on Friday could potentially be contests for the ages.
Here is the schedule if you are interested in checking out the Hawks in action Friday:
6am Central: Sweden (Hjalmarsson, Oduya, Kruger) vs. Finland -NBCSN
11am Central: USA (Kane) vs. Canada (Toews, Keith, Sharp) - NBCSN