Hold the obits just a little longer, the grey beards of the American World Cup team have a little bit of fight left in them. Spurred on by the energy of Keith Tkachuk who accounted for four out five American goals the USA has qualified for the semi finals in the World Cup of Hockey.
From the get go the Americans came out fired up, rushing into the Russian end and getting many chances to put some points on the board. The gates opened up on a perfectly timed tip by Tkachuk who had crashed to the Russian net just in time to deflect a Mike Modano backhand into the Russian net, bouncing between the legs of goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov. That goal would be the start of a run that saw Tkachuk, Modano and Bill Guerin combine for 11 points in the 5-3 victory.
Over 17,000 fans took in the American victory which moves the on to the semi finals against either Finland or Slovakia, depending on the out come of the Canada/Slovakia match on Wednesday night. The Russians battled back as the third period got underway, tying the Americans at 2 before a three goal explosion, the final of which was a Tkachuk shot to an open net put the game away for good. A younger team than what is usually sent to these tournaments the experience gained by the newest additions will come in handy for future tournaments, but for now their hockey in North America is done.
After a rather stormy weekend in the American camp with the Hullabaloo over Brett Hull’s benching, the American’s managed to get back to the game at hand. Coming out from the start they played a more North American style of game, heavy on dumping into the neutral zone and the Russian end, following it up with some heavy checks and consistent board play. With the confidence gained from the victory over Russia, the Americans are starting to believe in themselves again. This bodes poorly for the Finns or less likely the Slovaks who will need to have a pretty impressive game to defeat the Canadians. But as the last couple of games have shown, in a one game winner take all competition some strange things can happen. Just ask the Finns who narrowly escaped the Germans and more recently the Swedes who found themselves out of the tournament after a thrashing at the hands of the Czechs. Don’t think that Pat Quinn and Wayne Gretzky, won’t be making their players aware of the dangers of not taking the competition seriously.
With the Russians gone, organizers must secretly be hoping for a replay of the last World Cup championship game when the Americans claimed the championship at the expense of the Canadians. Three games stand in the way between that re-match, one the Americans have control over, two are in the domain of Canada. In order for both teams to get to where they want to be it’s wise to take things one game at a time. Get too far ahead of themselves and they’ll be joining the Swedes, Germans and Russians off the ice, watching television and making plans for what may be a very long disrupted season.