The United States hockey team came out firing tonight and rocked Romania, 7-2, to remain tied for first place in the Blue Division of the Olympic tournament.
Buzz Schneider scored two goals as the Americans outshot their opponents, 51-31. The Soviet Union did not have an easy time, needing three goals in the final minutes -- all in a 79-second span -- to defeat Finland, 4-2.
That put the undefeated Soviets, leaders in the Red Division, in the championship bracket of the tournament.
The U.S., now 3-0-1 in the Blue Division, must wait until the final round-robin game Wednesday night against West Germany to know if it has a shot at a medal. A U.S. victory over West Germany would guarantee a berth in the final two-game round.
Sweden is tied with the U.S. for first place in the Blue after a 7-1 victory today over Norway while Czechoslovakia (3-1), with an 11-3 rout of West Germany tonight, remained in contention. The U.S. and Sweden would advance to the medal round if they win Wednesday.
If the Czechs and Americans win, those teams would advance. If Sweden and the U.S. lose, their tie would be broken by goal differential. Sweden had 22 goals for and five against, the U.S. has 21 for and eight against.
Romania's hockey players bore little resemblance to their most famous sporting country man, Ilie Nastase. These guys were nice, and one, Traian Kazacu, got a tremendous ovation when he obligingly tossed a frisbee back into the crowd just before the start of the second period.
His teammates had less luck with a smaller target, the U.S. goal ably defended once again by Jim Craig.
The U.S. opened a 3-0 lead before Craig gave up a power-play to Doru Tureanu at 13:40 of the second period. At that point, the Romanians switched goalies, from Valerian Netedu to Gheorghe Hutan.
Less than four minutes later, Schneider, the only member of the 1976 Olympic team on the current squad, gave the Americans a 4-1 margin on a 30-foot slap shot after teammate John Harrington won a faceoff to the right of the Romanian goal.
The U.S. was hoping for an overwhelming victory in case of a tie breaker with Sweden, but both Romanian goalies made countless brilliant saves as the Americans swarmed around their net all night.
The U.S. a half-dozen point-blank opportunities in the first period, but only Schneider and Eric Stobel could connect for a 2-0 advantage. The Americans got off 36 of their shots in the first two periods, and at one point Hutan was so exhausted from bouncing up and down off the ice during a furious U.S. assault that he leaned against the goal, his head buried in his hands, and the capacity crowd wondered if he had fallen asleep.
Vladimir Krutov, Aleksandr Maltsev and Boris Mikhailov scored for the Soviet Union in the game's final five minutes to ruin a fine performance by Finn goalie Anteo Kivela.
Jukka Porvari had scored twice, including a shorthanded breakaway goal at 2:38 of the third period, to give Finland a 2-1 lead and face the Soviets with their first Olympic defeat since a 5-4 loss to Czechoslovakia in 1968.