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This is not your father's Russian ice juggernaut

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The one thing it wasn't, said the Russian journalist next to me, was a surprise.

"No surprise," he said.

He was trying to tell me that the guys at Pravda and the Moscow Times saw this 7-3 spanking coming like the Trans-Siberian Express.

"It was a very strong team today playing against us, and we couldn't adjust to the pressure by the Canadian team," Russia coach Vyacheslav Bykov said.

I'm not sure if that excuse is going to fly back at the Kremlin. The Russian Federation has had an awful Winter Olympics, now punctuated by what Canada did Wednesday night to its once-mighty hockey team.

With only four days of competition left in these Games, the Russian delegation has only 13 medals, three of them gold.

Exercising their game plan to be physical with the Russians, the Canadians scored 2:21 into the game (Ryan Getzlaf), then 12:09 into the game (Dan Boyle), and then just 46 seconds later (Rick Nash) to race into a stunning 3-0 lead.

The Russians didn't quit, but the deficit forced them to abandon most plans of playing defense. Barely four minutes into the second period, Canada had scored twice more and its lead had increased to 6-1.

Some of us went scurrying to the record book to see what the record was for the worst Russian/Soviet Union national team defeat. A 9-3 loss to Czechoslovakia in 1975 appears to be it.

"We tried to play different ways, but everything failed," Bykov said.

From 1956 to 1988, the former Soviet Union won every Olympic hockey gold medal, except for 1960 and 1980, when the United States won.

After being eliminated by Wednesday's defeat, Russia has now failed to win the last five Olympic hockey tournaments.

HIGH COST OF ASSUMING

The Barrowmans from Alberta were not happy.

Dressed in their Team Canada jerseys and with 1,200 extra miles on the family car, they had gambled and lost.

"We assumed, naturally, that Canada would win its group and would be playing in this game,"" Ryan Barrowman said in a corridor of Canada Hockey Place.

"So I'm a little upset."

Ryan ordered his Olympic tickets months ago, he said. He went for the best ones — $300 each in the arena's lower bowl.

Now, all dressed up in red Canada gear, the Barrowmans had nowhere to go but the quarter-final hockey match between the United States and Switzerland, a match made possible because the U.S. team upset host Canada.

"You know what they say about 'assume,' don't you?" I said to Ryan, trying to lighten the mood.

"No, what?" he said.

Never mind. I guess the joke doesn't translate into Canadian.

After the USA-Swiss game, the arena would be emptied and the doors reopened two hours later for the Canada-Russia showdown.

But the Barrowmans didn't have tickets for that.

It cost $175 and $300 to see a quarter-final round Olympic hockey game here. The semis are priced from $175 to $425. Tickets to Sunday's gold medal game have a list price of $550 and $775.

And if you wanted to see any of those medal-round games, you had to order the tickets months ago and assume that certain teams won.

"So I'm here today, pulling for Switzerland,"" Ryan Barrowman announced.

Judging from all the Canada jerseys, they assumed incorrectly.

HE SHOT, HE SCORED ... FINALLY

The score was 3-1 in the home team's favor when Brenden Morrow of the Dallas Stars finally put his stamp on this Winter Olympics.

Finding himself behind the Russian net, he skated to the right side of goalie Evgeni Nabokov and, when no one converged upon him, deftly flicked the puck into the back of the net.

"It felt good,"" said Morrow, who's had to be patient while waiting for playing time on Team Canada. "That was a big goal for us.""

It was his first goal in the Olympics.

"My role's a little different,"" he said Wednesday. "But I've done it in the past. I just want to contribute.""

Morrow played 11 high-energy minutes against Russia. He's been averaging a little less than 10 minutes per game.

He's also plus-4 during his time on the ice.

LeBreton is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

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