On the eve of the 30th anniversary of the greatest victory in American sports history , the American mens' hockey team pulled off yet another momentous upset of a tournament favorite, besting the Canadians tonight on their own soil, 5-3.
To many writers, the game's story wrote itself, starting in warmups when the US came out displaying throwback uniforms based on those worn by the 1960 Olympic gold medalists in Squaw Valley. It was a message to the Canadians, who hadn't lost an Olympic matchup to the Americans since 1960.
But this time around, the Yanks' victory, though surprising, was no miracle.
Brian Burke, United States' general manager, created this team with a certain prototype in mind—not unlike how Herb Brooks crafted his 1980 squad. He knew that there wasn't enough talent in the Americans' development camp to grossly overpower star-studded rosters like the Canadians, Russians, or Swedes would have.
But what he did see at that camp this past summer were the pieces to a team that could make sure they could compete with anyone. Even more than that, he saw potential for a roster that on any given night, would outwork even the most talented teams.
Other than premier talents such as Patrick Kane, Zach Parise, and Paul Stasny, every other forward on the roster was seen as a two-way player. Burke selected players with offensive ability, but made certain that his choices were as responsible defensively as they were gifted with the puck.
Resiliency was another deciding factor in who made the cut. And just 22 seconds after 19,000 fans took a deep breath as their Canadians tied the game at one, that resiliency reared its' head in the form of veteran defenseman Brian Rafalski.
Rafalski has been a rock on the blue line for the Americans thus far, and his two first-period goals helped erase some choppy play by his teammates.
One thing Burke knew he could fall back on was that his goaltenders would be able to erase some of the mistakes a youthful team might make. It's safe to say Ryan Miller didn't disappoint tonight.
Miller stole the show tonight, stopping 42 of the 44 shots he faced, including a number of saves on Canadian snipers from close in.
As resilient as this group has shown itself to be, they remain even more relentless. Ryan Kesler's heroics in beating Corey Perry to a loose puck and swipe it into the awning net personified the hunger the team played with from the opening faceoff.
This year's team represents a changing of the guard for Team USA. A new generation of stars are being born, even quicker than expected. The infusion of youth coupled with extremely low expectations have bred success thus far as the Americans finished the preliminary round as the top seed.
Nobody outside of the Americans' dressing room picked them to win tonight, and they were fine with that. They knew they had the tools in the room to get the job done.
They weren't surprised with the outcome. They expected to win. And now, heading into the knockout round, everyone else will start to as well. Besides, there's nothing miraculous about seeing the top seed win the gold medal anyway.
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