U.S. men refuse to live in the past


WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah - For the U.S. men's hockey team, the past is past. This is 2002, not 1980, and it's not your father's Soviet Union hockey team.

When the men's Olympic team faces the Russians today - assuming the Russians don't follow through on a threat to boycott the rest of the games -it won't be at all like 1980, when the U.S. "Miracle on Ice" team upset the powerful Soviets in Lake Placid, N.Y., in the semifinal on its way to a gold medal. Even if today is 22 years to the day when that historic game, often called the biggest upset in Olympic hockey history, was played.

The biggest difference being the United States, like Russia loaded with NHL stars, is a slight favorite in the game.

"It should be a heck of a game," Team USA and Dallas Stars center Mike Modano said. "There is a lot of speed, a lot of talent on that team."

To counter that, the Americans will have to use a combination of a tough defense and the hot play of goaltender Mike Richter to gain an advantage. The United States has been stingy through the first four games of the tournament, allowing only four goals.

"The Russians are magicians with the puck, so you know they're going to be tough," Team USA defenseman Gary Suter said. "But when you have the forwards we do and the goaltending we do, all we need to do on defense is skate well and move the puck."

When Suter skates against the Russians today, he'll have his brother, Bob, on his mind. Bob Suter was a member of the 1980 men's team, and Gary remembers what it was like before that game.

"I was a sophomore in high school - a military school in Indiana," Suter said, mentioning he was at the school because of the hockey program. "Me and everyone else thought the Russians would kill them in the Olympics. But we all saw what can happen when you play well."

The United States will have to play well today to advance to Sunday's gold-medal game against today's Canada-Belarus winner.

"They have experience and legs, too," said U.S. coach Herb Brooks, using hockey terminology to describe some of the older defensemen's ability to still chase down forwards and get to the puck. "They have legs, experience, make good decisions and hit the outlet guys. They're doing exactly what we want."

And if they keep doing that, the United States could do to the Russians what it did to the Soviets exactly 22 years ago.

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