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Canadian hockey fans look forward to gold

TORONTO - Canadian hockey fans have their sights set firmly on a golden finish.

Just moments after the men's hockey team eliminated their American adversaries on Friday, many spectators were laying out their plans to take in Canada's final game against Sweden this weekend.

Sunday's early-morning showdown will be Canada's chance to win a second consecutive Olympic gold medal for men's hockey after beating the U.S. in Vancouver in 2010.

"Go Canada Go! Go for the gold, it's ours," exclaimed Raquel Siuchock, who vowed to don her Team Canada jersey and take in the final with friends. "We're the best. I expect a win."

The 37-year-old was one of many fans who had paused in the middle of their work day to gather around public televisions to watch the hockey semifinal with a crowd of strangers who seemed to become friends.

At one downtown office tower in Toronto, a crowd dotted with red and white jerseys crammed around two large screens to count down the final seconds in the third period as Canada beat the U.S. 1-0 in Sochi.

"It's amazing to watch Canada play, especially in the Olympics," said Jordan Evely, who sported a sequined hat emblazoned with the Canadian flag.

"Just coming together with people with the same interests as a country, it just makes it so much more exciting. Everybody is just cheering, everyone's feeling the moment with you, whether it's good or bad, it's just awesome."

The mood was just as boisterous at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, which hosted a hockey watching party which featured ambassador Gary Doer among the revellers as American guests offered polite congratulations.

"You're all invited back to the embassy for breakfast and a gold medal," Doer said to those gathered.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper — who had a beer bet going with the U.S. president — was also quick to celebrate the victory on Twitter.

"Like I said, #teamusa is good but #wearewinter. @BarackObama, I look forward to my two cases of beer."

Friday's game arguably wasn't quite as stressful to watch as the women's hockey final a day earlier, when Canada managed to squeeze out a dramatic gold medal win against the U.S.

Jamie Benn scored the only goal for the men's team Friday on a pass from Jay Bouwmeester.

Nonetheless, those watching in groups collectively cringed and leaned forward in anticipation every time the puck slid near either side's goal.

"I had to see Canada win, " said Paul Ingolbsby, who added that he enjoyed the camaraderie of taking in a game with a crowd. "That's probably the best part of it, it's like being on the team."

In Halifax, dozens of people spilled over balconies and packed tables at a downtown sports bar as they focused on a giant wall of television screens. Applause and cheers rippled across the room as the final buzzer signalled the team's ascension to the final.

Halifax resident Ed Power said there isn't a doubt in his mind that Canada will take home gold on Sunday.

"We're the best in the world. We prove it time again," he said at HFX Sports Bar and Grill. "I just think it's totally awesome that it unites Canadians."

Meanwhile, Team Canada fans at a Vancouver bar burst into a rousing rendition of 'O Canada' minutes before counting down to the finish.

Chris Derpak, wearing a red jersey bearing goalie Roberto Luongo's name, said he was pumped for the final, which will be broadcast at 4 a.m. Pacific time (7 a.m. ET).

"I'm not gonna go to sleep," he said.

His friend, Craig Steinhauser of Whitehorse, said the result of the men's semi-final game was a well deserved win.

"We held the 1-nothing win," he said. "We worked hard all the way through, beat the U.S., now on to Sweden to take it home."

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