Photo credit: The Canadian Press
Have you ever watched “Miracle”? (If you’re a US hockey fan, the answer should be a resounding yes) Do you remember how Team USA’s opening game against Sweden ended? The Americans were down by a goal in the final minute and with netminder Jim Craig on the bench, defenseman Bill Baker (the extra attacker) took a feed from Mark Pavelich and ripped it past the late Pelle Lindbergh to tie the game, keeping Team USA’s medal hopes alive. Following that game, the US shocked second-seeded Czechoslovakia 7-3. Why is this significant? Because that was the last time the United States has beaten the Czechs in Olympic competition.
The date of said game was February 14, 1980 and while that was a long time ago, 2014’s version of Team USA were set to start a new chapter, and they did so – with a vengeance.
The Americans made the most of their opportunities in the first. James van Riemsdyk opened the scoring, followed by Kings captain Dustin Brown and finally David Backes. The US were up by a field goal after the first 20 minutes.
Ales Hemsky scored to cut the American lead to two but captain Zach Parise answered, chasing Ondrej Pavelec from the net. The Jets’ goaltender allowed four goals on 12 shots.
Phil Kessel later made it 5-1 before Hemsky notched his second of the game. For the Czechs unfortunately, it was far too little and far too late.
He didn’t have to burn the candle at both ends in this one but Jonathan Quick was reliable making 21 saves en route to the victory.
Defenseman Ryan Suter also had a great game, registering three assists.
With the win, the stage is set for an all-North American semi-final on Friday against Canada. This will be the first Olympic matchup between the two nations since 2010’s gold-medal game and hopefully, this game will be just as exciting. Of course, given Team Canada’s difficulty to score goals this tournament, the promise of an exciting contest isn’t quite there. But hopefully the Canadians will turn a corner as every Canada/USA battle lives up to his billing.