Saturday, February 15, 2014

Day 321: Now THAT Was Some Hockey! [SPOILER]

I was 10 when a group of college and amateur hockey players stunned the mighty Soviets in the 1980 Winter Olympics. I was old enough to know it was a huge win, but too young to understand what the hell just happened and what it meant for the USA. That Miracle on Ice will always be my first vivid memory of the Olympics and it was probably the moment when I fell in love with winter games.

This year, the American and Russian teams are both favorites for gold and if/when they meet in the medal round, it won't be nearly as lopsided as it was in 1980. The Soviet National team from the 80's was a serious force and came into Lake Placid having won gold in six of the seven previous winter games. They rolled through exhibition games beating several NHL teams, routing the NHL All-star team and crushing the USA team just days before the Olympics began. Am I the only one who pictures a team consisting of 20 Ivan Dragos in hockey pads?

The two teams met early this morning in the preliminary round and considering the score was tied after regulation, I'm guessing they're pretty even in the talent category. These days, things are a little different with Olympic hockey with many countries staffing their teams with mainly NHL players—something they didn't do in the 80's. The game wasn't without its controversy... I mean really, how can you not have just a little when these teams battle each other. Many Russia supporters feel that the winning goal was wrongly waived off giving the USA a chance to come back. But the net was clearly off its supports and the referees were right to say no goal. (Of course I say they were right, I bleed stars and stripes!)

So the game went to overtime. Five minutes of sudden death overtime is enough to send your heart directly to your throat. There's not much in sports that makes me wring my hands like hockey sudden death. The teams went back and forth and the overtime period ended with the game still tied. And now we go to a shootout. International rules are a bit different in that the teams are allowed to use the same shooter after the first three rounds and the US team put their trust in young TJ Oshie who not only scored the first goal of the shootout round, but also three more times, including the game winning goal.

Final Score: USA 3 : Russia 2

My palms were sweaty, my heart was in my throat... if this is how the prelim rounds are going to be for me, I'm scared for the medal rounds. If USA faces Russia for a medal, I swear I won't it through the game. This morning's match took years off my life. USA-USA-USA!!

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