No, this is not 1980, but a true suprise no doubt. In 60 minutes of hard fought, well played hockey, Team USA managed to change the entire script of how this Olympic hockey tournament was suppose to play out. Sorry Canadian fans, your dream match-up against Russia will be merely for survival, not a gold medal.
I found myself sitting with some good friends, taking back some beers and some food, preparing myself for a great game, not expecting at all to turn it into a story. The establishment was filled with people, some even wearing old USA jerseys. It seemed more and more like hockey, the much forgotten about sport in this country, was meaning something, even if just for this night. People were cheering every big save, every goal and every big hit. I found myself back in my glory, as one of my truly favorite sports was being embraced all over again.
[adinserter block=”1″]Yes, Team USA is a team of young, upstart NHL players. Lots of people will look at this roster and mutter “who?”. The days of the Modanos, LeClairs, Roenicks etc. are gone. Let’s not go crazy though, the veteran leaders of this team took it to Canada and were the fuel behind a stellar 5-3 victory by the now top-seeded US team.
Defenseman Brian Rafalski, a 3-time Stanley Cup winner, scored 2 first period goals to help the US lead 2-1 after the first period. It all seemed very pretty, and looked as if we were being set up for a nice start with a terrible finish. Miracle anyone? The second period brought similar results. The US finished every check, made the crisp passes, and seemed one step ahead of the Canadian club. Chris Drury added the next goal, and after 2 periods Team USA was ahead 3-2. Miracle anyone? In fact Canada’s mega-star Sidney Crosby was held to just 1 shot through the first 2 periods, showing just how serious things were getting, and showing the US teams mettle and determination.
Oh that 3rd period. I almost wished I wasn’t sitting at a local drinking establishment. I did not feel that my body would handle a horrible setback. No need to worry, this is Team USA! Team captain Jamie Langenbrunner added the 4th US goal and they found themselves up 4-2 late in the game. What happened next was highly expected. Canada went on a shooting spree, throwing everything and everyone at US goalie Ryan Miller. Shots were coming from everywhere, looking as if the Canadian team were allowed to use 3 pucks instead of one. Sid Crosby managed to push in his lone goal of the game to cut the margin to 4-3 with just moments left to play. Miracle anyone? Yes, we did in fact see it. As the 2 teams scrummed for a loose puck, it was US forward Ryan Kesler that managed to tip it past the Canadian defense, and skate his way toward the empty net. After a brilliant effort, par for the course of this “nothing to lose mentality”team, Kesler slid the puck in and the US had snatched victory from the host Canadians. Miracle, everyone!
[adinserter block=”2”]Much of the game went as expected. The Canadian team outshot the Americans 45-23, had lots of great oppurtunities and played good hockey. However, hockey is a “Team”sport, and anyone you ask will tell you that not the better players but the better “Team”won on this night. Ryan Miller was sensational in goal, where Martin Broduer was just a goalie. The Americans treated every goal like a championship celebration, while the Canadian team saw it as business as usual. You could see the difference, you could feel it, and in the end the team that wanted it more, got it!
Now the US will have a bye in he next round of competition and wait for the winner of the game between Belarus and Switzerland. Hey, anything can happen, so don’t set a place on your mantle for a gold just yet. As for team Canada, they will play Germany in the next round with the winner going on to meet Russia. So the big dream match-up will simply be an elimination of 1 of the 2 super teams. By the way, let’s not count out Sweden, they are large and strong in this as well.
For the moment I will savor this big win. I have to admit that I did not count this team for anything more then a sixth place finish. No matter what they do from this point on, this group of Americans has restored some faith in hockeyland, at least here in America.
If I may steal the famous quote “Do you believe in miracles?”
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