USA crushed the Finns 6-1; Men Hockey Plays for Gold

USA crushed the Finns 6-1.  The marque matchup will be the rematch between the U.S. and Canada.  Canada is leading 3-0 in their semifinal match in the third period.

The Americans advance to Sunday’s gold-medal game to face the winner of CanadaSlovakia at 3:15 p.m. ET, and, as with everything about this team, the way the final hurdle was cleared came as a surprise.

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Team USA was built to grind out victories, and the expectation for the Finland game was that the Americans would lean heavily on super goalie Ryan Miller and perhaps win a white-knuckler 1-0 or 2-0 the way they did over the Swiss in the quarterfinals.

Instead, they scored six goals in the first period. The team that was supposed to be offensively challenged filled the Finnish net with pucks.

“At that point you wish you [were playing] curling,” Finland’s Teemu Selanne said. “You can just give up and not put yourself on the line anymore.”

Some of this was because Finland goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff looked like he had spent the night drinking with the Canadian women’s hockey team. Some of it was because the U.S. passed the puck with precision and creativity. Some of it was because Patrick Kane, arguably USA’s most skilled player, got on track and scored twice.

“Would’ve been nice to get a couple more,” Kane said in exemplifying the mentality of this team.

“I think it was one of the better games I’ve seen in the tournament,” cracked goaltender Ryan Miller, who didn’t have much to do. “I got to watch most of it.”

Why this occurred doesn’t matter. It happened. USA hockey has happened. The Americans have been the best team in this tournament, the only unbeaten squad remaining, outscoring opponents 22-6.

Just like White Death waiting in a snow drift, they were overlooked by the rest of the hockey teams in the tournament until it was too late and they didn’t know what had hit them.

“They are a great team,” Selanne said. “They have all the tools to beat anybody.”

“This team all along knew we could win the gold medal,” Kane said.

The Canadians and the Russians got the pre-Olympics hype. Then the Swiss were supposed to be dangerous and the U.S. would have a post-Canada letdown. Then the Finns had that masterful defense and the Americans were prone to overlook them.

Instead, they keep answering every question and responding to every challenge. No matter what happens on Sunday, this is one of the very best U.S. hockey teams ever assembled, a collection of team guys and blue-collar personalities who have managed to make America pay attention to hockey due to little more than their quality of play.

They aren’t particularly colorful. They don’t boast a bunch of big-name players. They are exactly what you’d want out of an American team.

“I like the way this team has responded throughout the tournament,” defenseman Brian Rafalski said. “No one has panicked. No one has lost focus. We’ve had some big wins, and guys have kept improving and kept working.”

On Sunday, they play for gold. Maybe they’ll be the favorites. Maybe they’ll be the underdogs. It won’t matter. They won’t care.

“It doesn’t matter what anyone says,” USA’s Dustin Brown said. “It’s just about the belief in our room. We came here to win a gold medal.”

So bring your superstars, bring your MVPs, bring your hot goalies.

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