Canada-USA matchup stokes Flames’ patriotism

Thursday, 20.02.2014 / 6:26 AM
Aaron Vickers  - CalgaryFlames.com (@aavickers)

CALGARY, AB -- Chris Butler and Lee Stempniak are well aware that they’re outnumbered.

They’re hoping their country isn’t outmatched by Canada on Friday.

Butler and Stempniak, the lone Americans in the Calgary Flames dressing room, are hoping that the likes of Phil Kessel, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Quick can lift Team USA over Canada and earn the pair some bragging rights over the majority of teammates.

“[I’m] maybe a little over-patriotic sometimes,” said Butler, who has worn the stars and stripes at the World Juniors and twice at the World Championship. “I’m sure I’ll have some wagers out there.

“Anytime you play US-Canada it’s a huge matchup. The next game I don’t think will be any different. I think there’s a lot of talk about Canada struggling but I think everything kind of gets pushed to the wayside when those two teams meet. It doesn’t matter how well you’re playing. It’ll be a battle. I’m sure it will be a tight game.”

Canada enters Friday’s semifinal date with an appearance in the gold medal match on the line after defeating Latvia 2-1 on Wednesday. The Americans earned their matchup against their neighbours to the north after dispatching of the Czech Republic on 5-2.

The United States cruised through their three preliminary-round games before the quarterfinal matchup against the Czechs by outscoring their opponents 19-6. Canada, meanwhile, scraped together back-to-back one-goal wins, including an overtime victory against Finland in the preliminary round, to make it to Friday.

That doesn’t discourage Mike Cammalleri, though.

“I haven’t had a chance to watch all that much of it except that I see the US seem to be scoring a lot of goals,” the Richmond Hill, ON. native said. “I like that Canadian lineup, though. It’s a pretty deep lineup and I like their goaltender (Carey Price). I got to play with him in Montreal. I give Canada the edge.

“Really anything can happen. It’s tough to predict and that’s why everyone’s excited. I think it will be a fun game.”

Flames captain Mark Giordano doesn’t disagree.

“US-Canada…the US looks pretty good,” he said. “You have to admit it. They’ve been playing really well but it’s something I think everyone is looking forward to in North America. I just hope the guys can pull it out and get a win and go try to repeat. It’s tough. I watched a bit of the US game today and they look like a team who has a lot of confidence and they’re rolling pretty good.

“Butsy and Stempy will be on one side and the rest of us on the other.”

The Flames currently boast 17 Canadians on the roster. Stempniak and Butler make up the American contingent.

Understandably, Stempniak feels a little outnumbered when it comes to the size of the cheering sections in the locker room.

“We’ll be in the minority,” said the 31-year-old who has represented Team USA in three World Championships. “It’s great. It’s a huge rivalry now. We’ll see what happens, I guess.”

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