Stand by for an ice storm in Vancouver

Canada survive late shock to set up gold showdown with electrifying Americans
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The classic showdown is on. Canada survived a late fightback by giantkilling Slovakia to win 3-2 and book a gold medal match against the US tonight. It will mark the second time in three Winter Games the North American rivals have clashed for the gold medal that hockey mad Canadians covet more than any other.

There could be fire on the ice as Canada seek revenge for a 5-3 preliminary round defeat by the Americans that forced the hosts to play a qualification game against Germany.

"In the end we feel fortunate to do what we came here for, which is to play for the gold medal," Mike Babcock, Team Canada's coach, said. "Absolutely thrilled for our young guys and our team and this opportunity especially at home in Canada and to get another shot at the US. I think it is real special."

Slovakia, the surprise package of the tournament with wins over top-ranked Russia and the reigning champions Sweden, looked capable of extending their run and crushing Canada's dreams of gold when they got two late goals through Lubomir Visnovsky and Michal Handzus and nearly tied it in the dying seconds.

The heart-stopping end to the semi-final did not appear to be in the script as Canada roared out to a 3-0 lead on goals from Patrick Marleau, Brenden Morrow and Ryan Getzlaf. With Canada in control and less than 10 minutes to play the capacity crowd at Canada Hockey Place had been in party mode and were already chanting "We want USA. We want USA."

They have got them but perhaps they should be careful what they wish for. The Americans were in electrifying form in the other semi-final, putting the game in the freezer in the first quarter with a stunning burst of six goals. Finland had the negligible consolation of winning the rest of the game 1-0 to head for the bronze medal match on the back of a 6-1 drubbing.

Canada has already put one over on the Americans – beating them 2-0 in the women's final – and boy did the winners celebrate. The beer flowed and out came the cigars in what was meant to be a private party. Some hopes. The players swiftly apologised, and while officials praised them for their exploits on the ice and played down the party, they did encourage them to be a bit more discreet next time.

"As far as we're concerned, the matter is closed," Michael Chambers, the Canadian Olympic Committee president, said. But will any Canadians be complaining if their men's team gets just as carried away after their showdown with the Americans?

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