The United States’ hockey team is getting exactly what it wanted. Another shot at Canada.
Dustin Brown banged in a go-ahead goal late in the first period, and the Americans went on to dominate the Czech Republic, 5-2, Wednesday to earn a spot in the semifinals for the third time in four Olympics.
The U.S. went on to play in the gold-medal game in 2010 and 2002, and lost each time to the Canadians.
After a day off, the countries that share a long border in North America and generally friendly relations will meet on Friday for the chance to become hockey champions of the Sochi Games.
“It’s a great opportunity,” American forward Max Pacioretty said. “They’re obviously the favorite 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.”
While the Canadians had to hold off Latvia, 2-1, the U.S. might be peaking at the right time to improve its chances to win Olympic hockey gold for the first time since the “Miracle on Ice,” in 1980.
If the U.S. wins two more games, anyone who has been watching them play won’t be surprised.
“This is a team that has put up a spectacular performance,” Czech Republic coach Alois Hadamczik said.
And it wasn’t the first time in Sochi.
The U.S. has been tested only once, in a 3-2, eight-round shootout against the host Russians in the preliminary round. The Americans crushed the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia by a combined score of 17-4.
James van Riemsdyk gave the Americans a lead 1:39 into the game.
Brown put the U.S. up, 2-1, at the 14:38 mark of the first, and David Backes made it 3-1 with 1.8 seconds in the period.
Zach Parise piled on, pushing the Americans’ lead to 4-1 midway through the second period to chase Pavelec after he made just eight saves. He was replaced by Alexander Salak, who stopped 12 shots.
Shea Weber scored a tiebreaking power-play goal with 6:54 to play, and Canada survived an enormous scare from Latvia for a 2-1 victory.
Carey Price made 15 saves for the defending Olympic champion Canadians, who were stretched to the limit by Latvia goalie Kristers Gudlevskis.
The 21-year-old Tampa Bay Lightning prospect made 55 saves in a spectacular performance, nearly pulling one of the biggest upsets in hockey history largely by himself.
But Weber unleashed his peerless slap shot late in a power play, and Canada finally took the lead on its 54th shot against Gudlevskis.
Patrick Sharp scored in the first period for the Canadians, who lost forward John Tavares to injury in the second period.
Finland beat the Russians, 3-1, knocking them out of the quarterfinals and ending their chances of winning a hockey gold medal in front of their own fans.
Finland will face top-seeded Sweden in the semifinals on Friday.
Another Russian with great expectations, 15-year-old figure skater Julia Lipnitskaia, fell during the women’s short program and finished fifth. Defending gold medalist Yuna Kim of South Korea led the competition, which finishes today.
Ted Ligety of the U.S. won gold in men’s giant slalom, the first American man to win two Olympic medals in Alpine skiing. American-turned Russian snowboarder Vic Wild won the men’s parallel giant slalom, minutes after his Russian wife, Alexa Zavarzina, won bronze in the women’s competition.
Norway won the first Olympic mixed relay in biathlon, making Ole Einar Bjoerndalen the most decorated Winter Olympian ever with 13 medals.
Bjoerndalen broke the record for overall medals that he had shared with cross-country skiing great Bjoern Daehlie. He also matched his fellow Norwegian’s record of eight gold medals.
Marit Bjoergen captured her fifth career Olympic gold medal when Norway won the women’s team sprint.
In the men’s race, Finland took advantage of a fall that slowed its two closest rivals. Russia grabbed the silver, Sweden the bronze.
Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic denied the Netherlands another speedskating podium sweep in the 5,000 meters, and the Canadian women won the gold in bobsled.
The Canadians rallied in the final two heats to beat the American duo of Elana Meyers and Lauryn Williams in USA-1 by 0.10 seconds. Humphries and Moyse finished a full second ahead of Jamie Greubel and Aja Evans in USA-2, the bronze winners.
Kim scored 74.92 points, ahead of Adelina Sotnikova of Russia by 0.28. Carolina Kostner of Italy is third with 74.12.
Lipnitskaia, who helped Russia win the team gold on Feb. 9, fell on a triple flip. She was too tearful to speak after her worst performance in months.
American Gracie Gold is fourth, within striking distance after overcoming a sense of stage fright.
Kim, 23, could become the third woman to win consecutive Olympics, following Sonja Henie and Katarina Witt.
Leading after the first run, Ligety sped down the Rosa Khutor course in a two-leg combined time of two minutes, 45.29 seconds.
Steve Missillier of France finished second, 0.48 behind. Alexis Pinturault, another Frenchman, was third.
American Bode Miller will skip the slalom after tweaking his surgically repaired left knee while finishing 20th with a time of 2:47.82.