GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA – Canada and the Russians are in the Olympic men's hockey semifinals as expected. The other two teams weren't expected to be here at all.
The final four has two surprise visitors: the Czech Republic, which is in its first semifinal since 2006, and Germany, which is in contention for its first medal since 1976 in Innsbruck — as West Germany before reunification. The Czech Republic will play the favored Russians on Friday after knocking off the United States 3-2 in a shootout, while Germany will face Canada after upsetting top-seeded Sweden 4-3 in overtime.
Germany didn't even qualify for the Sochi Olympics, and now gets a chance to face two-time defending-champion Canada, which lost starting goaltender Ben Scrivens because of an upper-body injury and needed Kevin Poulin to make 15 saves to beat Finland 1-0. Poulin could be counted on for more against Germany.
"I was ready before coming in," said Poulin, a former New York Islanders goaltender thrust into the biggest role of his career. "It's not a surprise. It might be happening in many games. You've got to be ready mentally and you just have to stay in."
The Russians didn't have to do much other than show up, sweeping aside Norway 6-1, and has a chance to end its 16-year medal drought.
"Our dream's still on," said captain Pavel Datysuk, who was on the Russian team that won bronze in 2002. "We are in a tournament where we are the top favorite, but we need to improve."
Improve? Since losing to Slovakia in their opener, the Russians have won by scores of 8-2, 4-0 and 6-1.