Canada aims to defend hockey gold against Sweden

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Updated: 2/23 3:18 am

Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Following a dominant defensive performance in a semifinal win over the rival United States, Canada will take aim at its second straight Olympic gold medal in men's hockey when it faces Sweden in Sunday's championship battle at the Sochi Games.

The Canadians will get a chance to defend their gold medal from the 2010 Vancouver Games thanks to a 1-0 win over the Americans in Friday's semifinal contest.

Jamie Benn supplied the lone goal of the contest at 1:41 of the second period in a rematch of the gold medal game from four years ago. The Canadians beat the U.S. 3-2 in overtime in Vancouver to win its second title in three Olympics. Canada also beat the Americans for gold at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.

Not since the Soviet Union has a nation managed to win back-to-back gold medals in the Olympic men's hockey tournaments.

The Soviets, who won gold at seven of nine Winter Games from 1956-1988, were the last country to win two straight Olympic titles, winning consecutive tournaments in 1984 and '88. The U.S., of course, ended a string of four straight gold medals by the Soviet men at the Lake Placid Games in 1980. The Unified Team -- a loose confederation made up of six of the 15 former Soviet republics, including Russia -- also won gold at the 1992 Albertville Games.

Canada also will aim to win Olympic gold outside of North America for the first time since 1952, when it beat the U.S. for gold at the Oslo Games.

Sweden, meanwhile, is after its second gold medal of the last three Winter Games. The Swedes won the Olympic tournament eight years ago in Turin, claiming their second-ever gold medal in men's hockey. Sweden also won gold in at the 1994 Lillehammer Games, which was the last Olympics to exclude NHL players from participation.

While Benn supplied the lone goal of Friday's semifinal victory over the U.S., Carey Price anchored the Canadian win by stopping all 31 shots he faced. Price's performance helped Canada reach the gold medal game for the fifth time since 1992.

At his first Olympics, Price has a perfect 4-0 record to go with a 0.74 goals- against average and a .963 save percentage

Sweden also earned its place in Sunday's game thanks to a win over a geographical rival, beating Finland 2-1 in all-Nordic semifinal clash. Erik Karlsson snapped a second-period tie with a power-play goal and Henrik Lundqvist made 25 saves to lead the Swedes to the close victory.

Loui Eriksson also scored for the Swedes, who will meet Canada in the gold medal game for the first time since 1994, when Peter Forsberg scored the decisive goal in a thrilling shootout in Norway.

Both Canada and Sweden are unbeaten in Sochi, each posting 5-0 records to make the gold medal contest. If Sweden is able to win again on Sunday, it will join Canada as the only nations to win two gold medals since NHL players were first allowed to participate in the Olympics at the 1998 Nagano Games.

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