By Steve Keating
VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Canada stormed into the Olympic men's ice hockey quarter-finals on Tuesday while Switzerland and the Czech Republic were pushed to the limit and Slovakia battled to a bloody victory over Norway.
After a slow start to the Olympic tournament, Canada shifted into top gear with a morale-boosting 8-2 rout of Germany then immediately set their sights on their greatest rivals.
"We want Russia, We want Russia," roared the capacity crowd at Canada Hockey Place as the home team flexed its muscles with the kind of hard-hitting, attacking display the hockey-mad nation had been waiting for.
Canadians will not have to wait long for the game they demanded, with their team set to return to the ice on Wednesday for a heart-pumping quarter-final clash against Russia which will see one of hockey's two superpowers and gold medal favorites make an early exit.
The Czech Republic needed an overtime goal from David Krejci to see off Latvia 3-2 and book their ticket to the last eight while Jonas Hiller denied Sergei Kostitsyn to lift Switzerland to a 3-2 shootout win over Belarus.
The ill-tempered contest had threatened to end in a full-scale brawl as players spilled off the bench at the final buzzer with several shouting and pushing and shoving matches breaking out as officials fought to maintain control.
Bartecko had been carried off the ice by stretcher and taken to a clinic at the Vancouver Athletes Village where he was later listed as in a stable condition.
Slovakia will probably be without Bartecko when they face off against reigning Olympic champions Sweden in their quarter-final clash on Wednesday while the other games will see Switzerland take on the United States and Finland clash with the Czech Republic.
Certainly, the game that will have the Olympic city buzzing on Wednesday will be the showdown between Russia and Canada.
The bold bravado of hooting, flag-waving supporters urging Canada on against Germany was in stark contrast to the angst-ridden days leading up to the sudden-death qualification game following Sunday's home nation defeat by the U.S.
But the rout convinced Canadians they need not fear the mighty Russians as the mood quickly swung from one of gut-wrenching anxiety to "Bring It On."
While the world's two top-ranked nations will not be battling for the last gold of the Games on February 28, the stakes could not be higher with the game sure to add another chapter to hockey's richest international rivalry.
"It's going to be a challenge and we all know the rivalry and how intense it is," Sidney Crosby, Team Canada's offensive lynchpin, told reporters.
"We knew at some point we were going to play them and the fact it is in the quarter-finals really doesn't change anything."
No athletes are under greater pressure to deliver gold in Vancouver than the 23 men wearing the Maple Leaf on their sweaters.
Russia also arrived at the Games with expectations of returning home with the country's first hockey gold since the breakup of the former-Soviet Union when the Big Red Machine ruled the Olympic ice.
(Editing by Jon Bramley)