Just hours following the chant “We Want Russia,” Team Canada will face off against their hockey rivals for the gold medal tonight at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
“It’s going to be unbelievable,” said Connor McDavid. “This is something you dream of, getting this opportunity. We have a great Russian team ahead of us.”
McDavid and line mate Nic Petan lifted Canada over Slovakia 5-1, setting the stage for this historic matchup. Petan scored three, McDavid and Lazar had three helpers, and Anthony Duclair and Shea Theodore also found the back of the net for Canada. The last time Canada faced Russia for gold was in 2011, losing a 5-3 heartbreaker that saw Russia score five unanswered goals in the third period.
But this team is determined to win not only for themselves and their country, but for their fallen teammate Robby Fabbri.
The Canadians entered the ACC last night with an air of camaraderie, following the injured Fabbri to the dressing room. The Guelph Storm winger sustained a high right ankle sprain in Friday’s quarterfinal win over Denmark, and has since become the team’s number one “cheerleader.”
“It’s very disappointing for him, obviously,” Canadian head coach Claude Groulx said of Fabbri, who was having an excellent tournament with two goals and four assists. “Such a nice person and he’s a great competitor.”
And another fierce competitor is Canadian goaltender Zach Fucale, who has staked his claim as Canada’s number one starter. Owning an impressive 0.50 goals-against-average, Fucale will start tonight against a Russian lineup that is not afraid to crash the net.
“This is exactly where we wanted to be,” said Fucale. “We wanted to have that chance for that gold medal. It’s not my first time playing Russia. We all have a bit of an idea how they play. We’ve played them before. It’s a great rivalry, great battle. We’re excited about it.”
But the excitement is shared on both sides, as Russian head coach Valeri Bragin called the matchup “the best thing for all of the hockey community,” and referred to the rivalry as a “hockey classic.”
“That rivalry that’s been together since the ’72 Summit Series that I’ve been told about and see highlights of all the time, it’s going to be something special,” Canadian defenceman Joe Hicketts told the Canadian Press. “It’s an honour for me to get to wear the Maple Leaf in that game.”
Canada has not won gold since 2009 in Ottawa, and will look to turn the page when this historic rivalry continues tonight at 8 p.m.