02/20/2014 3:29 PM
The Winter Olympics are almost complete, having started two weeks ago. With the Games starting to come to a close, one of the most exciting events for hockey fans is fast approaching—the gold medal match of the men’s hockey tournament.
Quarterfinal games were played Wednesday with the top four seeds advancing to the semi-finals—Sweden, the United States, Canada and Finland. While the remaining teams offer some great games, they also cause a little dissension among the Pirates crew with a good mix of both American and Canadian-born players.
“Obviously, it’s a little rivalry within the locker room,” Pirates defenseman Chris Summers said before his recall to the Phoenix Coyotes Thursday. “Guys poke at each other a little bit. The Americans are outnumbered a little bit but it’s a good little healthy competition.”
The U.S. and Canada will play Friday with the winner heading to the gold medal game. While the matchup should prove to be one for the ages, there is no doubt in Mark Visentin’s mind who will come out on top.
“Canada. All day,” the netminder proclaimed. But it will not be a walk in the park for the Canadians, especially with revenge on the mind of the Americans.
“What happened four years ago was a heart-breaker for the U.S.,” Andy Miele admitted. “So there will be lots of money on the game,” he added with a slight smile.
Even Visentin, with all of his confidence in his countrymen, notes that the competition will be stiff.
“Finland has been good, they have Rask who has been playing real well,” he said. “I think Sweden is always a threat too. Obviously the Americans are good. They’re all a threat, those four left. I think any of them could win, it’s just a matter of who can come out and perform.”
Miele is just as confident about the Americans as Visentin is of the Canadian team.
“I think they’ve been doing great from the little I’ve seen,” he said. “There’s high expectations now for U.S.A. hockey and they’re following through with that and it’s exciting.”
Another exciting aspect of the Olympic Games has been seeing friends representing their respective countries. Miele, who has spent some time with the Coyotes players who headed to Sochi, such as Lauri Korpikoski and Mike Smith, was especially happy for Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who spent time with the Pirates last season.
“I was super excited to see he made Sweden and he’s doing well there and I can’t wait to hear stories about it after,” Miele said.
Summers also had former teammates head to Russia.
“One of my best friends [Brian Lebler] got the opportunity to play for Austria and it was really exciting to see him go over there and compete,” Summers said. Lebler was Summers’s roommate while they played together at the University of Michigan. Carl Hagelin, another former teammate of Summers, has also has played well for team Sweden, notching two goals in their win over Slovenia Wednesday.
“He’s a tremendous player, a lot of energy he brings to the table,” Summers said, referring to the New York Rangers forward.
While the tournament will come to a close Sunday morning at 7 am, with one of the two North American countries in the mix, the players have yet to make plans as they have some more important matters on their minds.
“We have a game Saturday to focus on,” Visentin said. “We have a game in the afternoon Sunday, so I haven’t even thought about it to be honest.”
The Pirates’ weekend will begin Saturday with a matchup against the Manchester Monarchs in another game of the VIP Cup Series, presented by VIP Tires & Service, before the team hosts the St. John’s IceCaps in Lewiston on Sunday.
Saturday’s game can be heard on the Pirates flagship stations WPEI 95.5/95.9 FM as well as WEZR FM 105.5/AM 1240 in the Lewiston/Auburn area and WTME AM 780/1450 in Oxford County. The game can also be heard online at portlandpirates.com by clicking “Listen Live” and can be seen live on AHL Live at ahllive.com. The pregame show starts at 6:40 with Jeff Mannix. Tickets for Sunday’s matchup against the St. John’s IceCaps are available at the Androscoggin Bank Colisee by calling 783-2009 ext. 525 or online at - the first 500 fans in attendance will receive a free winter hat courtesy of Electricity Maine!
Season tickets for the 2014-15 season are now on sale as the Pirates return to the Cumberland County Civic Center! Choose the 5 on the Fly, Salty’s 16, or Captain’s Full Plan, all with great benefits! For more information on season ticket plans, visit www.portlandpirates.com/tickets/season or call 207-828-4665.