CALGARY, FEB. 20 -- Coming into the Olympic hockey tournament, while the American public had dreams of another Lake Placid miracle, amateur hockey officials were a bit more realistic.
"We wanted to get into the medal round, and get in a position to win the bronze," said Bob Johnson, the former Calgary Flames head coach and now executive director of the U.S. Amateur Hockey Association. "I never thought we'd win the gold medal."
On Sunday night, the U.S. team, 2-2 in the competition, has a chance to keep that bronzed goal alive, needing a victory over West Germany (3-1) by two goals to advance to the six-team medal round.
Assuming the Soviets beat the Czechs Sunday, and if the Americans beat the West Germans, three teams will have 3-2 records. The Czechs are plus-1 after losing to West Germany, 2-1, and beating the United States, 7-5. The United States is minus-2 after its loss to Czechoslovakia. The West Germans are plus-1 after their victory over the Czechs.
If the Americans win by only a goal, they all will recall an empty-net score by Czech Dusan Pasek in the final nine seconds. Without that goal, the Americans would only have to beat the West Germans by one.
On Sunday night, the Americans will face a big, physical German team that scored one of the preliminary round's biggest upsets with its victory over the Czechs last Saturday.
"I think the German team is very strong," said American Coach Dave Peterson. "The German team is very experienced; they have a big jump on us in age and experience and they'll try to exploit it."
The Americans are expected to start Mike Richter again in goal against the West Germans, who will start Karl Friesen, a Winnipeg native who once played for the New Jersey Devils.
The U.S. team has been criticized for its defensive deficiencies. And, although it tightened up somewhat against Norway, the U.S. camp knows it needs an outstanding game from Richter to advance to the medal round.
"He's got to come up big," Johnson said today. "We're going to need great goaltending. The kid is fundamentally sound. He stays on his feet, he's very capable, he doesn't guess much. He's definitely the key."
His teammates also know it is important to get off to a fast start. "It would be great to get up a couple on them real quick," said center Scott Fusco. "You have to approach it the same as any other game, you just want to go out and win."
No matter the outcome, Johnson said he has been satisfied with the play of the U.S. team.
"Our kids are really the only team in the tournament to play the flow game," Johnson said. "It's amazing, this is the only team trying to play the game the way it used to be played. The rest of these teams are now playing defensive style hockey. We've been caught by teams playing defense and waiting for the chance to pick you apart. I like the way we play the game; we came very close to beating the best two teams in the world, very close."
Canada 9, France 5:
The Canadians, who had scored six goals in their first three games, got seven in the first period and clinched a medal-round berth.
Serge Boisvert started the onslaught at 6:57 and Steve Tambellini ended it at 19:20 of the opening period. The last four goals came in a span of 2:23.
France, outshot by 21-12 in the first period, put up strong resistance after that as Patrick Foliot replaced goalie Jean-Marc Djian to start the second period.
France, led by Philippe Bozon's three goals, fell to 0-4.
The A Pool picture was clouded by Sweden's 3-3 tie with Finland, but Canada's future is clear. It will fill one of the pool's three spots in the six-team medal round.
Switzerland 4, Poland 1:
Switzerland scored four first-period goals, including one on a penalty shot, to win and clinch a medal-round berth for top-seeded Sweden.
Poland (1-2-1), the tournament surprise after losing only 1-0 to Canada and tying Sweden 1-1 in its first two games, is on the brink of elimination. Poland is out if Switzerland beats France Monday.
Sweden 3, Finland 3:
The top-seeded Swedes allowed their Scandinavian rival to rally for the tie. Sweden is 2-0-2, Finland 2-1-1.