Europeans Knock U.S., Canada out of Olympic Hockey

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Jere Numminen of Finland and Mathieu Schneider of the U.S. face off in hockey quarter final. i

Jere Numminen of Finland, right, is defended by Mathieu Schneider of the United States during a quarter-final men's ice hockey match, Feb. 22, 2006. Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Getty Images
Jere Numminen of Finland and Mathieu Schneider of the U.S. face off in hockey quarter final.

Jere Numminen of Finland, right, is defended by Mathieu Schneider of the United States during a quarter-final men's ice hockey match, Feb. 22, 2006.

Getty Images

The Canadian and United States hockey teams are heading home from the Turin Olympics after tough matches against rivals in Europe. Canada was beaten 2-0 by Russia in the quarterfinals and the Americans lost 4-3 to Finland.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Let's go next to the Olympics in Turin, Italy, where the Canadian and U.S. teams are packing up their gear. The teams that played for the gold four years ago both missed the final games this year. Canada was beaten two to nothing by Russia in the quarterfinals. The Americans lost to undefeated Finland, four to three.

Here's NPR's Chris Arnold.

CHRIS ARNOLD reporting:

The Fins clearly have a great team at this Olympics. It would have been a tough match even if the Americans had the same number of skaters on the ice. But for half the game, the U.S. team had a player, and sometimes two players, sitting out for penalties. It was not a pretty game. The U.S. players repeatedly got caught hooking the Fins with their hockey sticks. They took some unnecessary penalties. At one point defenseman Derian Hatcher hit the Finnish star Teemu Selanne square in the face with his stick, knocking out a few teeth. It looked like an accident, but Hatcher got called for high sticking. And the Fins just kept scoring.

U.S. forward Mike Knuble of the Philadelphia Flyers says the team got caught in the cycle of being short on a guy on the ice and being forced to pickup more penalties to avoid giving up another goal.

Mr. MIKE KNUBLE (Forward, U.S. Olympic Hockey Team): We went through a period in the first period when we were riled up, and then started getting riled up and started taking some aggressive penalties, and it just kind of snowballs after that. You know, that's one thing in this game, taking 30 minutes in minor penalties, it's not a way to survive.

ARNOLD: But beyond penalties, the U.S. team just did not look together out there on the ice. They took a lot of desperate looking shots, not taking time to set up good plays. They didn't move the puck around well and made sloppy passes. The Americans won just one in six games at the Olympics. Like most hockey teams here, the U.S. team is cobbled together with players from different form NHL teams, and there's not a lot of time to practice together.

Forward Brian Ralston admitted that U.S. hockey just didn't really gel this time around.

Mr. BRIAN RALSTON (Forward, U.S. Olympic Hockey Team): You know, we didn't come together, you know, like we should have as a team. You know, I thought we gave some good efforts. But it's a matter of coming together as a team, and coming together quick as a team, and playing hard. And you know, we played a tough team tonight.

ARNOLD: Canada played a tough team too. Canada was a favorite to win gold again at this Olympics, but the Canadians just could not score against the Russians. And early in the final period, the rising NHL star, Alexander Ovechkin, put one in the net. His teammate, Alexi Kovalev scored with just 23 seconds remaining, to give Russia a two to nothing victory. Ovechkin says everyone in my country is jumping and drinking lots of vodka.

The win sends Russia to the semifinals, where they will meet still unbeaten Finland. Sweden and the Czech Republic are still in it too. All are strong teams, and the gold medal could be grabbed by any of them.

Chris Arnold, NPR News, Turin.

INSKEEP: We put the latest Olympic results, medal standings and photos at npr.org.

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