Asking Switzerland to defeat Russia and Canada on consecutive days is like asking an unarmed tribesman to kill two lions on the open Serengeti.
So yesterday at Saskatoon's Credit Union Centre, before a non-sellout crowd of 13,427, there was a predictable result. Canada beat the little-country-that-couldn't 6-1 in a world junior hockey championship semi-final, and advanced to the 2010 gold-medal game tomorrow.
The Canadians are seeking a sixth straight gold at the under-20 tournament, which would be a new national standard and put them in position for even more history in Buffalo next year.
The former Soviet Union won seven consecutive tournaments from 1974-80, although that was during the event's infancy, when it was by invitation only, and when Canada often sent its Memorial Cup champion and not an all-star team.
Canada will play the United States who defeated Sweden 5-2.
"We've been waiting for this since summer camp," Canadian team captain Patrice Cormier said. "We've been here since [Dec. 12] We're here for one reason and I think everybody knows it. We have to stay calm and keep our composure."
That could prove difficult.
Head coach Willie Desjardins lambasted his charges in the second intermission after a series of undisciplined penalties in the middle period, when the score was 3-1. But on another temper-testing front, the Canadians passed with flying colours.
Forward Nazem Kadri, one of the few practising Muslims in the upper reaches of international hockey, refused to shake hands with Swiss forward Nino Niederreiter after the game.
"He said something that I really didn't enjoy hearing," said Kadri, the Toronto Maple Leafs' first-round draft pick last spring, who refused to elaborate.
"I went to shake his hand and he took his hand away," said Niederreiter, the hero in a 3-2 overtime victory over Russia in a quarter-final game Saturday. "I don't know why."
Five different players scored for Canada, including winger Taylor Hall, who had a pair. Alex Pietrangelo and Brandon McMillan each had two assists, and defenceman Marco Scandella scored the game-winning goal - short-handed - seven minutes into the second period. Jake Allen made 20 saves in goal, beaten only by Mauro Jorg on a power play midway through the second.
"We had a big opponent again today," Swiss coach Jakob Kolliker said. "Our strength and our batteries were a little bit down."
But once again, as they were in a stupefying victory over Russia, the Swiss were game. They were also chippy, particularly as the third period wore on and the result became clear.
Forward Jeffrey Fuglister hit Canadian defenceman Travis Hamonic from behind in the final minute and received a game misconduct.
Hamonic had to be helped from the ice and will be evaluated today. His status for the gold-medal game is unclear. Both coaches said it was part of the game and not a vicious attempt to injure.
Switzerland will play in the bronze-medal contest tomorrow, against Sweden, but it has already won gold in overachieving and in team spirit.
That was evident again yesterday every time the players walked from their dressing room, shouting and whooping it up as if it was Mardi Gras. Because of injuries, the team was without its best two defencemen - Luca Sbisa and Roman Josi, both named to the 2010 Olympic team - in the medal round.
"The short-handed goal hurt us and it was too much to come back," Kolliker said. "But I am very proud of my players."
Canada led just 1-0 after one period, on a goal by Jordan Eberle.
The Regina native, who is tied for the tournament lead with 11 points, became the second most productive Canadian at the world junior tournament. He is tied at 24 points with Jason Allison, who played in 1994 and '95, and seven points behind all-time leader Eric Lindros, who competed in three tournaments.
"The only record I am aware of is six in a row," Eberle said.Report Typo/Error