The Russians expected to play for the Olympic men’s hockey gold medal for the first time in 20 years.
Their opponent is quite the surprise.
Germany will play in the Olympic final in hockey for the first time ever, a country with only two bronze medals in its history _ the last in 1976.
Patrick Hager’s power-play goal at 12:31 of the second period wound up the game-winner as Germany stunned two-time defending gold medalist Canada 4-3 Friday night to set up a very unexpected gold medal game on Sunday.
After upsetting top-seeded Sweden and pulling off their latest amazing win, an elusive gold medal suddenly isn’t so far-fetched.
“Who knows? Who knows?’’ German goalie Danny Aus Den Birken said with a big smile. “If we keep fighting like this, we have nothing to lose.”
The Germans may believe in each other, but this is a country that didn’t even qualify for the Olympic men’s tournament in 2014 at Sochi. They finished 11th in Vancouver.
Coached by former NHL player Marco Sturm, the Germans scored two power-play goals against backup Canadian goalie Kevin Poulin with Ben Scrivens out injured. This wasn’t the Canada team that won gold in 2014 in Sochi or 2010 in Vancouver with a roster stocked with NHL stars.
“We didn’t know what to expect ...,’’ Sturm said. “Everyone, the best players should be in Olympics. All the NHL guys should be in the Olympics. That’s just what the event is for and hopefully in the future they will be back on Olympic ice.”
For now, the Germans have capitalized in their biggest win yet after knocking off top-seeded Sweden. They had a bunch of German athletes in the Gangneung Hockey Center cheering them on.
After Canada’s last flurry was ended with the puck sent out of the offensive zone, the Germans hugged and huddled in celebration with the Canadians simply standing around in disbelief. Even the Germans on the ice may need a few hours to realize exactly what they’ve done, and Winnipeg native Brooks Macek said this win is huge.
"Everybody talks about 1976 and winning bronze medal, and now for the next 50 years they're going to talk about us," German defenseman Christian Ehrhoff said. "That's why it's the greatest day in German hockey."
Matthias Plachta had a goal and an assist, Frank Mauer and Macek each had a goal for Germany. Gilbert Brule had a power-play goal for Canada before being ejected for a high hit on David Wolf. Mat Robinson and Derek Roy also scored for Canada.
Next up for Germany is a powerhouse Russian team that has looked every bit the favorite. Veteran goaltender Vasily Koshechkin stopped all 31 shots he faced to put the "Olympic Athletes from Russia" into the final with a 3-0 victory over the Czech Republic earlier Friday.
Russia last reached the Olympic final in 1998 when it lost to the Czech Republic and hasn't won gold since 1992 when it played as the unified Community of Independent States team.