It's finally here.
The moment Team USA upset Canada in last year's World Junior Championship, the hype began building. Tonight, here in Buffalo, worlds collide again.
"It still bothers me that we lost to them," Canada defenseman Calvin de Haan said. "It's time to look for some revenge."
USA and Canada will clash in the 2011 World Junior semifinals in HSBC Arena at 7:30 p.m., with a trip to the championship game on the line. There are 2,200 tickets, ranging in price from $95 to $140, available. But the market price may be rising as we speak.
Both USA and Canada have been the odds-on heavyweights throughout this tournament. For so long, the assumption was that the sequel would -- again -- take place in the gold-medal game. Instead, the rematch comes a game early following Canada's 4-1 win over Switzerland on Sunday. Team USA had a bye into the semifinal round.
When not occupied by a raucous U.S. crowd, the arena has bled red. Canada averaged 17,857 fans at its preliminary games after 63 percent percent of the all-session and day passes for the tournament were purchased by Canadians.
Pausing for a second, U.S. forward Jerry D'Amigo says he can't even picture what the atmosphere will be like. Even though Canada's preliminary loss to Sweden prevented a gold-medal rematch, tonight's game should be electric. Two legions of fans, separated by the Peace Bridge, will congregate at the foot of Washington Street.
"The setting for it is going to be amazing," D'Amigo said.
The reason? Memories are still fresh. In Saskatoon -- in its backyard -- Canada was stunned by Team USA, 6-5, in overtime of last year's title game. That memory has stuck with an entire country's worth of hockey fans for 12 months.
USA goalie Jack Campbell said players haven't talked to Canadians about that game. You "just kind of know" that game has been stewing in their heads, he said Sunday.
A few hours later, Canada beat Switzerland. When it was announced that Canada and the U.S. would face off, the crowd erupted. The rivalry resumes tonight.
"I'm sure they want nothing more than to take it away from us on our home soil," Campbell said. "I'm confident that we'll do our best to not let that happen."