US Olympic hockey team wants to get the job done

AFP, SOCHI, Russia

Thu, Feb 13, 2014 - Page 19

Zach Parise and his US teammates have some unfinished business to take care of at the Sochi Olympics after coming within a goal of striking gold four years ago in Vancouver.

The memory of their 3-2 loss in the gold medal game, when Sidney Crosby scored in overtime for Canada, is still fresh in their minds.

“We came so close in Vancouver,” Parise said. “It was a tough way for us to finish. We know that just because we finished second the last time, there is no guarantee we are going to get back to gold medal game. A lot of things have to go right.”

The US may not have the star power on offense that Russia and Canada or even Sweden boast, but they are deep in goal, which is key for any team hoping to make a run at a medal.

The 2010 silver medalists will likely go with Jonathan Quick as their No. 1, followed by Ryan Miller and Jimmy Howard. And talented forward Patrick Kane could turn out to be the biggest game-breaker of the tournament for any team.

He was the US’ best forward in Vancouver and he anchors an explosive power play that also includes Dustin Brown and Parise.

“The Olympics is a place you can make a name for yourself,” associate general manager Ray Shero said.

Kane, who has a silver medal from 2010 and has won two Stanley Cup championships with the Chicago Blackhawks, said he is going to be even more focused in Sochi.

“The gold medal game was special, but I was young and naive. I didn’t realize how big a game it was at the time. It would be nice to get back in that situation,” said Kane, who has 27 goals and 63 points in 59 games with Chicago this season.

Brown said he still has bitter memories of how they lost to Canada.

“Sometimes a loss motivates you more than anything else,” Brown said. “I keep it in the back of my mind. In 2010, no one gave us a chance. It is always about the expectations you put on each other in the dressing room. We are itching to play at an Olympic level.”

The US are in the difficult Group A, with Russia, Slovakia and Slovenia. They will play one of the most anticipated games of the preliminary round when they face Russia on Saturday.

The US will be without their general manager David Poile, who could not travel to Sochi after undergoing surgery for facial injuries he suffered when struck by a puck last week.

Poile needed surgery for damage to an eye and received stitches for a deep cut to his face.

Poile, who is also the general manager of the Nashville Predators, was standing in a tunnel area just off the ice surface when a hard pass from defenseman Shea Weber, who will play for Canada at the Olympics, deflected over the boards.

“David is getting the medical attention he needs back in Nashville,” USA Hockey assistant executive director Jim Johannson said on Tuesday. “We are going to miss his input, but we are in communication.”