It’s been 53 years since Team USA won the gold medal at the World Hockey Championships—a drought that’s lingered far too long. This year, however, Team USA will finally rewrite history by winning it all.
After triumphing in five of its first six games of the tournament, Team USA dropped it’s final preliminary round matchup, 4-1, to Slovakia Tuesday night.
The path to the podium will be more difficult for the men donning the Red, White and Blue. Because Finland defeated Latvia, 3-2, Team USA finished third in its pool behind Finland and Russia. Now, the U.S. will face off with Russia—the team that dealt the hometown boys a 5-3 loss on May 7—in Thursday’s quarterfinal.
No matter, Team USA coach Joe Sacco has all the confidence in the world heading into Thursday’s pivotal contest.
“We will be ready,” Sacco said, courtesy of USA TODAY Sports. “We’ve had a good tournament. I told our guys that. We’ve played extremely hard. But this was a game that didn’t go our way. So we refocus, turn the page and get ready for our next opponent.”
Indeed, Team USA has played an incredible tournament thus far, scoring 24 goals in seven games. Forwards Paul Stastny, Craig Smith and David Moss, along with defensemen Justin Faulk and Erik Johnson, have combined to score 12 goals while tallying 19 helpers to lead the offensive attack for the U.S. Stastny and Smith are in the top-10 points leaders for the tournament.
In a tournament as grand as this, the competition becomes increasingly difficult the deeper you get. Team USA has held its own, fended off opponents and capitalized on opportunities.
“There are no easy games in this tournament,” Phoenix Coyotes right winger David Moss said, courtesy of USA TODAY Sports.
There’s no question Team USA will be underdogs against Russia, who is tied with Switzerland for the most goals scored in the tournament, with 29.
Playing with a chip on their shoulder, Team USA players will be hungry for an upset. They will be eager to correct an earlier loss to Russia.
“The big thing for us is just playing with discipline,” Sacco said, courtesy of USA TODAY Sports. “You come over here and you get frustrated, and you don’t want to get wrapped up in penalties and extra-curricular activities after the whistle. And for the most part, we have done a good job of that.”
If Team USA players stay disciplined, they will rewrite history by winning their first gold medal in over half a century.