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for Go(l)d and Country 03/01/2010

Posted by sportretort in Sports.
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Reaction to the US game tying goal with 24 seconds left in the game

American hockey came of age yesterday. When the Olympic tournament began two weeks ago, the hockey team from the USA was given little or no chance to play for the Gold Medal. In many hockey circles, it was considered a stretch if they were to be included in the medal rounds, the top 4 teams in the 12 team tournament. After all, the USA was the youngest team in Vancouver. Even though their side consisted entirely of NHL players, there was not the star power of a Crosby, or Malkin, or Ovechkin.

The first hurdle that the US had to overcome was their pool participant Canada. After all, the Canadians were the host country, and were considered the tournament co-favorites, along with the Russians. A funny thing happened along the way. The US beat Canada in pool play and won the bye into the quarter finals. Both the USA and Canada reached the Gold Medal game. The USA had to again play the Canadians in Canada for the second time in a week. The final game of the tournament was one for the ages. Despite what the experts thought.

Sidney Crosby beats Zack Miller of the USA for the OT Golden Winner

[Again, most experts gave the USA little chance. Don Cherry, Canada’s most famous homegrown hockey huxter bloviated before the game that Canada would prevail 5-3. After all, they had the best big game goalie in the game, and the US needed to play rope-a-dope just to stay in the game against the mighty Canadians. They would not dare to press the issue against the mighty Canadian lads as that tactic surely would spell American doom. It was a good thing that the USA team did not listen to him. This game for gold, played before the largest hockey TV audience ever, was played all out from the opening face off. Canada scored two goals and took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission. Surely the US, trailing for the first time in the tournament, was done. But the boys from America clawed back, showing the resolve many thought they lacked. They had closed the game to 2-1 by the end of the second period, and had an entire nation holding their collective breath heading into the third and final period. Hockey is Canada’s national obsession. In fact, four million people in that country watched the announcement of the team roster on live TV, such is their passion. Of all the gold in this olympics, this was the one that defined their nation. Now, they were 20 minutes away. The Americans and Canadians played hard and tough throughout the 3rd period. But at the half way point, Canada still lead 2-1. Ten minutes left for the gold. Then five. Then two. The US pulled their goaltender in favor of a 6th attacker with a little over a minute left. The Americans were attacking 6 on 5 while defending an open net at the other end. With 24 seconds left, Zack Parasie stuffed home a rebound off of Canadian Goaltender Roberto Luoungo, and the game was tied. This Epic battle was headed for overtime. These two countries had fought a border war to a 2-2 stand still at the end of regulation. Now, these two natural rivals were headed to sudden death overtime. Canada, the country where the game was invented, and the USA, the hated rivals to the south, so reviled in Canada that the US national anthem is often lustily booed at NHL games played in Canada, would skate 4 on 4 to decide the final event of the Vancouver Olympic games.

Star power won out. 7:40 into the 20 minute overtime period, Sidney Crosby cemented his place in Canadian lore by beating USA goaltender Zack Miller with a shot. The Golden Goal belonged to Sid the Kid and Canada. But the Americans won over the hearts of many. This team proved that American Hockey belonged on the international stage. The Americans came within a shot of knocking off the Canadians for a second time in Canada. The Gold belonged to the Red and Whit of Canada. But in this tournament, the real winner was the group representing the Red White and Blue. USA goaltender Miller was named the tournaments Most Valuable Player, and the Silver medalists from the USA left these games with a new found respect.

The disappointment was apparent as team USA accepted the silver medal after the game, but as the sting of the OT loss subsides, these players will come to understand the respect they earned for USA hockey

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