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  Miracle Redux: U.S. Stuns Canada

By Jennifer Frey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 15, 1996; Page D1

 Team USA's Doug Weight (left), Joel Otto and Mike Modano celebrate 5-2 victory over Canada in '96 World Cup. (Shaun Best/Reuters)
MONTREAL, Sept. 14, 1996 — Tony Amonte was only 9 years old when the U.S. Olympic team performed its "Miracle on Ice" in Lake Placid in 1980, a kid who played hockey for fun in his Massachusetts neighborhood. He was old enough, though, to know how much that moment meant to the United States, and how big a moment it was in the history of American hockey.

Tonight, Amonte created some history of his own. Playing in the decisive game of a best-of-three series, the 26-year-old forward scored 17 minutes 25 seconds into the third period to shatter a tie game and lead Team USA to victory over Team Canada in the World Cup of Hockey. Amonte's goal came just 43 seconds after Brett Hull tied the game at two goals apiece, and it was the peak moment in a dramatic night of hockey that ended with a 5-2 U.S. victory.

Amonte leaped into the arms of his American teammates after the final buzzer sounded, and Team USA celebrated its first international hockey championship since the U.S. team won the gold medal at the 1980 Olympics, beating the Russians along the way.

"This is unbelievable right now, what we're feeling," said Keith Tkachuck, an assistant captain of Team USA. "What a feeling. We beat Canada at its own game."

Though Amonte has the game-winning goal to his credit, Team USA has more than one hero, and none more impressive than Mike Richter. Richter, who was named the tournament's most valuable player, stopped 35 of 37 shots, and weathered an onslaught — 22 shots total — in the second period alone.

It was at the end of that period, with 5.5 seconds remaining, when Eric Lindros scored a power-play goal for Team Canada to tie the score at 1. Energized, the Canadians played with the same sizzle at the start of the third period, and when Adam Foote scored a fluky, bouncy goal 12:50 into that period to give Canada its first lead, the Molson Centre crowd was poised to start a national celebration.

The Americans, however, were not ready to let them.

Hull — who had given the Americans the early lead with a goal 11:18 into the first period — first turned the tide when he redirected Brian Leetch's slap shot with a flick of his stick in the slot. Unsure whether Hull's stick had been raised higher than the crossbar — which would be a rules violation — the officials called upstairs for a replay, and Team USA huddled nervously until the word came down that the goal was good.

Clearly demoralized by that play, the Canadians failed to regroup quickly enough to prevent Amonte from adding a second U.S. goal less than a minute later. His shot, too, required a replay, and once again the ruling came down in favor of Team USA.

An empty-net goal by Derian Hatcher and a slap shot by Adam Deadmarsh fattened Team USA's margin of victory in the closing minute.

"There's a natural letdown," said Team Canada Coach Glen Sather. "We probably out-chanced them 4 to 1, and when it's a lucky goal like that [by Hull] — virtually a nothing play — it's going to give you a letdown. Then the other one [Amonte] punts it — whether he kicks it or redirects it or whatever — and it's just unbelievable."

Team Canada had emotion, noise, momentum, and, most of all, history on its side when the two teams met here tonight, each with one victory in the best-of-three series. The Canadians had the roar of the crowd, which waved Canadian flags wildly and chanted "Can-A-Da!" until many throats were hoarse. They had the pep rally on Rue de la Montagne prior to the start of the game, and volunteers handing out miniature Canadian flags, and T-shirts declaring hockey their national sport.

The Canadians even had Mark Messier, their inspirational leader, who emerged from his sick bed to play regular shifts.

But, as Messier said before tonight's game started, "you can have all the emotion in the world, but if you don't execute, it doesn't mean anything." And the Canadians, despite a torrent of shots, were unable to turn the nationalistic fervor in the building into a nationwide party.

The Canadian crowd seemed shocked, almost listless, when the game turned so quickly in the closing minutes, and they filed out rather quietly while the Americans skated around the ice with their trophy and a few U.S. fans cheering them on.

"It's tough to say what this is going to mean to American hockey," said Richter, who was aware that these series was much bigger in Canada than it was back at home. "The best effect you can have on anything is by winning. And we did."

© Copyright 1996 The Washington Post Company

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