The U.S. Olympic hockey team had its day of reckoning against Canada on Feb. 21. While the U.S. didn't face Canada in an Olympic gold medal game again, their semifinal battle had all the stakes and statements of a championship game. Yet America made a statement that it still wasn't ready to take that next step, as Canada broke its heart again in a 1-0 triumph.
Even after scoring 17 goals in its first four Olympic games, the U.S. showed that it wasted its offense too early. Of course, America had faced Slovenia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and the disappointing Russians in those four games. Canada is at another level altogether, and so was goaltender Cary Price.
The Montreal Canadians' net-minder stopped all 31 shots that the Americans rained down on him. As such, all Canada had to do was get one puck past the USA's Jonathan Quick, which Dallas Stars' captain Jamie Benn did in the second period.
There would be no last second goal to force overtime, like the U.S. managed before its last Olympic loss to Canada for the 2010 gold. There won't even be a silver medal to console the Americans, as they still have to face Finland on Feb. 22 just to salvage the bronze.
Meanwhile, Canada has its shot at a second straight gold medal, as it will face Sweden -- the last nation besides Canada to win hockey gold -- on Feb. 23. The Canadians have managed to get this far without a single goal from Sidney Crosby, although he still has time for heroics in a second straight Olympic finale.
Offense wasn't the name of the game in this latest victory over the Americans, who still can't solve the Canadians in a medal round no matter what they do. Every time Team USA looks ready to reach heights it hasn't gotten to since 1980, Team Canada has delivered a brutal reality check, as it did in 2002 and 2010 beforehand.
The reality is that the U.S. will end its Olympic run with a mere bronze medal at stake, starting at 10 a.m. est on the NBC Sports Network. As for Canada, it will take aim at a grander finale against Sweden at 7 a.m. est tomorrow morning.