CALGARY, FEB. 17 -- The U.S. hockey team and Swiss skier Pirmin Zurbriggen dreamed of miracles, but there was only heartbreak to be found today at the XV Winter Olympics.
Team USA, hoping for a repeat of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" at the Lake Placid Games, fought back relentlessly from a 6-2 deficit going into the final period, but could get no closer than a 7-5 loss to the Soviet Union.
The hard-charging, breathlessly reckless Americans outshot and outplayed the Soviets in the final period and had the 19,000 at the Saddledome on their feet screaming for more.
U.S. Coach Dave Peterson pulled goalie Chris Terreri for an extra skater in the final two minutes, desperately trying to pull even. "If we had tied it up, I think we might have won the game," Terreri said.
The U.S. team has now lost twice. Assistant coach Ben Smith said the Americans must defeat Norway on Friday, then score at least two more goals than West Germany to advance to the medal round.
Earlier in the day, Zurbriggen, continuing his bid for an unprecedented five gold medals, fell on a wind-swept mountain less than 30 seconds from an almost certain victory in the Alpine combined.
Zurbriggen had gone into today's slalom portion of the two-day Alpine combined in first place off his impressive downhill run Tuesday. And after the first run of the slalom, he was sixth, with the gold well within reach.
But about halfway down the second run, he hooked a gate with his right ski, teetered, went through another gate, fought to regain his balance, then turned sideways and rolled over. At the bottom of the run, his girlfriend, Monika Julen, buried her head in her hands.
"I was so sure of myself," said Zurbriggen, who won a gold in the downhill Monday but has struggled without a victory in two years in the slalom. "I knew I just had to reach the finish to win the gold."
Hubert Strolz of Austria won the combined gold, finishing fifth in Tuesday's downhill and seventh today. Strolz's countryman, Bernhard Gstrein, took the silver and the bronze went to Paul Accola of Switzerland.
The results in the two glamor events were typical of a day of disappointment, as a U.S. speed skater came within 2 1/2 seconds of a medal and the Olympic schedule was blown into disarray by a Chinook packing 50-mph gusts.
The best U.S. finish of the day was a fourth by Eric Flaim in the men's 5,000-meter speed skating, leaving the Americans with only Jill Watson and Peter Oppegard's pairs figure skating bronze to show for five days of competition.
The Soviets lead the medal standings with nine, including three golds. Finland is next with three medals, two of them gold.
The United States barely missed a speed skating medal as Flaim clocked 6 minutes 47.09 seconds in the 5,000. Tomas Gustafson of Sweden, the 1984 Olympic champion, won the gold, the silver went to Leo Visser of the Netherlands and Dutchman Gerard Kemkers took the bronze in 6:44.98.
One of the best U.S. hopes for a gold, men's national figure skating champion Brian Boitano, was in second place after today's compulsory figures, which count for 30 percent of the total score in the event. Thursday's short program represents another 20 percent and Saturday's long program accounts for 50 percent of the total.
Boitano's chief rival in what is being called "the Battle of the Brians" is Canadian Brian Orser, the current world champion. Orser was third today, with Soviet Alexander Fadeev in the lead.
The figure skating at Father David Bauer Arena was safe from the Chinook winds that blew into town, forcing postponements in the 90-meter team ski jumping and the women's luge finals. Now, both events are in danger of being radically altered by the weather.
Should winds continue strong Thursday, the ski jumpers will be sent off the 70-meter jump, officials at Canada Olympic Park said. Luge medals would be awarded on the basis of the standings after the first two runs, according to the International Luge Federation.
Should that happen, East Germans would sweep the luge medals, with the gold going to Ute Oberhoffner. Bonny Warner, considered a strong medal contender, struggled with her sled in Tuesday's breezes and was in eighth position.
"I guess we are all shooting for fourth place," Warner said. "We all want to sit there, hoping the East Germans will make a mistake so we can get a crack at a medal. If they don't mess it up, there will be no medals for anybody."
The day did see a pair of athletes win their second medals of the Games: Marjo Matikainen of Finland took the gold and Vida Ventsene of the Soviet Union earned the bronze in the women's five-kilometer cross country ski race. Matikainen had taken a bronze and Ventsene had won Sunday's 10-kilometer cross country race.
Matikainen clocked 15 minutes 4.0 seconds on the twisting Canmore Nordic Center course. Silver medalist Tamara Tikhonova missed bringing the Soviet Union its third cross-country gold in as many events by 1.3 seconds.
"She's a real favorite of mine," top U.S. finisher Leslie Krichko (in 31st place) said of Matikainen. "Sometimes, with the Russians, you can't get a smile out of them."