VANCOUVER – One week after facing each other in the Preliminary Round of the 2010 men’s hockey tournament at the 2010 Winter Olympics, Canada and the USA are set to battle again.
If Canada wins gold, Eric Staal has a chance, at 25 years of age, to become a member of the Triple Gold Club.
The Triple Gold Club, an elite group of hockey players who have won the Stanley Cup, World Championship and Olympic gold, currently stands at 22 players.
Staal won the Stanley Cup in 2006, leading the Carolina Hurricanes in playoff scoring with 28 points. At the 2007 World Championships in Russia, Staal won gold and was one of Canada’s top scorers.
Canada will look to avenge their 5-3 loss last Sunday. Canada came back from that loss with impressive results, beating Germany and then shellacking Russia. The contest against Slovakia was closer than expected, but Canada did enough to earn a rematch with their North American rivals.
This time it’s a game with everything on the line so the stakes are much higher.
"It's a game for a Gold medal. Obviously we want to beat them but if we had beaten them before we're still going to want it just as bad because the winner obviously gets the Gold and that's our goal. That's what we came here for and we look forward to it tomorrow," Staal said.
One of the reasons why Canada has excelled since last week is because line combinations have gelled.
Staal has played well since being added to a line with Sidney Crosby and Jarome Iginla. The formidable trio did have scoring chances against Slovakia but their ability to produce on what is the biggest game of this tournament will be crucial.
“We've had some good opportunities. We just haven't hit the back of the net for our line,” Staal said. “Fortunately we haven't needed it in the last two games because obviously we're getting the wins. For us hopefully those chances will fall in the back of the net.”
There is a 1980 Winter Olympics connection for both teams. Canada is looking to become the first country to win men’s hockey gold at home since the Americans did it in Lake Placid. The Americans are seeking their first gold medal since that Miracle on Ice thirty years ago.
The crowd will play a big factor for Canada, even though they are considered the away team for this contest. Getting off to an early lead would raise the roof at Canada Hockey Place.
"You want to have a great start. We've done that in the last two games and it's been big for us the rest of the way. That'll be important especially with the energy in the building. You want to keep that fire going all the way through."