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Canada enjoys a good night at the hockey

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Matthew Pinsent | 05:01 UK time, Thursday, 25 February 2010

The organisers here in Vancouver have seemingly adopted a song to pump up the local fans in all the venues.

So when we set up our tripod in Canada Hockey Place to start gathering material for the quarter-final against Russia, the Black Eyed Peas' "I got a feeling" was pumping out of the speakers.

The fans flooding into the arena are in so many ways very different to a sports crowd in the UK.

Firstly, they come as couples and families; some even bring babes in arms complete with ear defenders and Canada body suits.

And there are more than a smattering of ironic dress codes - the superheroes, the body paint, the ridiculous hockey helmets and the huge horns.

They were praying for their beloved Team Canada to turn up the volume and play something like the sum total of their constituent parts. They had been shocked by the state of their team against the USA in the group stages and thrashing Germany in the first knockout game last night was scant consolation - everyone knew the Russians were coming.

Team Canada celebrate victory over Russia
Team Canada celebrate a stunning victory over Russia. Photo: Getty

But believe they did - "Tonight's going to be a good night."

I've had the privilege of being inside Hockey Place for three games so far but the atmosphere for the Russian game bore no comparison to anything that I had witnessed before. And nor did the Canadian team on the ice.

They demolished the Russians with quick, powerful attacks, putting the Red Machine on the back foot within three minutes with a Ryan Getzlaf goal. But in the opening stages the fans, while celebrating, were still worried that the Russians would bite back and it was only after goals five and six in the second period that the party could begin.

The Russian superstars became invisible and when they did start throwing men forward, the Canadians were able to answer.

With 25 minutes gone the Russians pulled their starting keeper Evgeni Nabakov after he conceded six goals from 23 shots. Meanwhile, at the other end there was a keeping masterclass going on.

When we first arrived in Vancouver all the hockey discussion was over the Canadian goalkeeper position. Martin Brodeur and Marc-Andre Fleury were then considered options, but Roberto Luongo made the position his own tonight.

He was always going to be a local favourite given his club is the Vancouver Canucks but every shot he saved (all 25 of them) was greeted with loud rounds of "Loooooooooo!" from the thousands in the stands.

It didn't matter that the third period provided little in the way of goal entertainment - the crowd could voice their relief that their team has at last displayed the form necessary to win gold.

They've got every right to have that feeling now - they need just two more good nights.


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