BEIJING (Reuters) -On a day of upsets China could not provide what would have been the biggest of them all, as Canada rolled to a 7-2 win over the Beijing Olympic hosts on Tuesday and into the men’s ice hockey quarter-finals.
Canada’s expected victory capped off a day of surprises big and small on the ice.
Germany, surprise silver medallist at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, had their hopes for a repeat dashed as they were dumped out of the competition 4-0 by Slovakia, while Olympic debutant Denmark edged Latvia 3-2 and Switzerland stopped 1998 Olympic champions the Czech Republic 4-2.
The games settled Wednesday’s quarter-final matchups that will have the reigning gold medallist Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) taking on the Danes while the speedy United States will face off against Slovakia.
Canada, bronze medallists at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, meet Sweden with Finland skating against Switzerland.
The heavily favoured Canadians may have won as predicted, but were made to work for it against what should have been an overmatched opponent they had dismissed 5-0 on Sunday.
“Even despite the losses, when you take a step back and you see what it means for China ice hockey, the Chinese people, I think we accomplished something while we were here,” said Canadian-born Ty Schultz, who goes by Zheng Enlai on the China roster and whose sister competed for China at the Tokyo Summer Games.
Energetic China, winless through group play, were not going to exit meekly. They trailed just 2-1 after an opening period that could have ended tied if Fu Jiang had converted on a penalty shot.
It was a scrappy effort by China, who were constantly in penalty trouble for which Canada made them pay as Jordan Weal connected on two powerplay chances.
China gave the largest crowd to attend a game at the National Indoor Stadium something to cheer beyond an appearance of hugely popular Games mascot Bing Dwen Dwen, when U.S.-born Jian An scored near the end of the first period.
Canada took control with a three-goal second period on a pair of tallies by Adam Tambellini – one on a penalty shot – and another from Eric O’Dell to go up 5-1.
Jian, who was known as Cory Kane while playing U.S. college hockey, had the crowd on its feet again when he scored his second to close out the period.
Eric Staal, a 17-year National Hockey League veteran and a member of Canada’s 2010 Vancouver Olympic gold medal winning team, and Jack McBain closed out the scoring with third-period goals.
“They were tough, they came out hard. We knew they were going to come out hard, but I think we just kept our composure and played well,” said Canadian forward Eric O’Dell.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Beijing, additional reporting Amy Tennery and Tony Munroe; Editing by Ed Osmond and Bill Berkrot)