MERIBEL, France -- Winning a bronze medal was the last thing the members of the U.S. Olympic hockey team wanted to think about after the disappointment of losing to the Unified Team yesterday in the Olympic semifinals.
"We were just thinking gold," forward Ted Donato said.
But the bronze will be at stake today at 3 p.m. when the Americans play Czechoslokavia, and although letdowns are always a possibility in such consolation games, the Americans said they would be ready.
"The bronze means everything to us," Donato said. "A lot of people said we didn't have a shot at anything when this tournament started. We've come a long, long way, been together six months. To get a medal to show for it would mean everything.
"We will have no problems getting up again."
The Americans, who were unbeaten until yesterday, lost to the Unified Team, 5-2. The Czechoslovakians, who upset Sweden in the medal-round quarterfinals, lost to Canada, 4-2.
The Americans have won a medal in hockey only three times since 1960. They won the gold that year and in 1980 -- both times when the Games were in the States -- and won the silver in 1972 in Japan.
In other words, by winning tonight the Americans would win a hockey medal playing outside their country for only the second time since Eisenhower was president.
"We've got plenty to play for," captain Clark Donatelli said. "We're going to come out fired up."
It will be the last game for an American team that has been together since September, when it began preparing for the Olympics. The players criss-crossed the country for five months, often getting beaten badly by NHL teams.
But their run in the Olympics has given them all a sweet taste after all those sour months.
"It's kind of hard to believe it's the last game," Donatelli said, "but we want to go out the right way."