It’s a rivalry that goes back decades — 34 years ago, Team USA defeated the dominant Russian hockey team (then the Soviet Union) in Lake Placid on their way to the 1980 gold medal. Even if you weren’t yet born, you’ve come to know that game as the “Miracle on Ice,” and yes, you do believe in miracles.
Today’s game between the United States and Russia may have been just a preliminary round game, but from the moment the puck dropped, you could tell it meant more than just any other game for both teams. Both squads have designs on a gold medal already, and the physicality of the game was intense. As time went on, you could tell that 60 minutes of hockey just wouldn’t be enough to hold it all in.
Both teams have their fair share of superstars, whether it’s Patrick Kane or Zach Parise for the Americans, or Evgeni Malkin and Alex Ovechkin for Russia. But when the five-minute overtime finished with a 2-2 deadlock, it was time for an unlikely hero to step up and win the game.
T.J. Oshie had scored 14 goals in 57 games for the St. Louis Blues before coming to Sochi this year, but he was chosen specially for his shootout skills. During the roster selection process, American general manager David Poile had often been quoted as saying, “You know at some point we are going to end up in a shootout, and we are going to want T.J. Oshie.”
This is where the Americans really showed their depth and strategy. International rules are a bit different than in the NHL, and the Americans used that to their advantage by sending Oshie out an amazing six times in the shootout. He converted for four goals, and the Americans are now set up for a potential bye to the quarterfinals.
It may not have been for a medal just yet, but with this kind of depth and planning, Team USA showed that they are a serious threat to bring home the gold.