By John Vogl
Ted Nolan might have had trouble going back to his native Canada if Latvia won today. Shea Weber made sure The True North avoided the monumental upset and set up a semifinal showdown with the United States.
Latvia, coached by the Sabres' Nolan, had Canadian fans chewing their nails and holding their breath in their Olympic quarterfinal. Weber finally put the 11th-seeded team away, scoring on the power play with 6:54 left to give Canada a 2-1 victory.
The United States, meanwhile, had a much easier time. The Americans dropped Czech Republic, 5-2, to earn a chance at revenge against their biggest rival. Canada beat the United States in overtime of the gold-medal game at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
The winner of Friday's matchup gets a chance at gold, while the loser will compete for bronze. The other semifinal features another fierce rivalry as Finland will play Sweden.
Canada was a huge favorite over the Latvians, but that didn't matter to goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis. The minor-leaguer from the Tampa Bay organization made 55 saves to give his country a shot at hockey immortality. Weber's power-play goal finally gave Canada a chance to breathe.
Canada opened the scoring with 13:37 gone on a goal by Patrick Sharp, but Latvia answered 2:04 later on a goal by Lauris Darzins. Despite the loss, the Latvians -- who also boast Sabres rookie forward Zemgus Girgensons -- put themselves on the hockey map.
The Americans advanced with help from a timely goal by David Backes. The forward for the St. Louis Blues scored with 1.8 seconds left in the first period to put the Czechs in a back-breaking 3-1 hole.
Zach Parise scored midway through the second period to make it 4-1, and the U.S. team coasted home. James van Riemsdyk, Dustin Brown and Phil Kessel also scored for the Americans. Goaltender Jonathan Quick made 21 saves.
taggedOlympics | Ted Nolan