CALGARY, FEB. 21 -- An Olympics of high scoring and near misses ended in despair for the U.S. hockey team tonight when the Americans ran into a hot goaltender and ran out of chances to win a medal, losing to West Germany, 4-1.
West German goaltender Karl Friesen, a 29-year-old businessman born in Canada, had 33 saves and shut out the United States for more than two periods tonight at the Saddledome to ensure that his nation -- and not the United States -- would advance to the medal round.
The United States (2-3) will play its final game of the Winter Olympics Thursday in the consolation round, where it will be playing for seventh place in the 12-team tournament against either Switzerland or Finland. The 1984 U.S. Olympic team finished seventh. No U.S. Olympic team ever has finished lower than that.
The West Germans (4-1) join the Soviet Union (5-0) and Czechoslovakia (3-2) as the teams to qualify for the medal round from Pool B. Medal round play begins Wednesday and ends Sunday, the final day of the Olympics.
"Obviously, it is disappointing," U.S. Coach Dave Peterson said. "We set a goal to be in the medal round and we didn't get there."
Going into tonight's game, the United States had to win by two goals over West Germany to advance to the medal round. But from almost the very beginning before a pro-U.S., capacity crowd estimated at 19,000, the older, more experienced West Germans controlled the action and never let the Americans get into their offensive pattern.
Simply put, the U.S. team picked an awful time to lose its scoring touch.
The Americans had 26 goals in their first four games but were held scoreless for 45 minutes 54 seconds tonight, far longer than in any other game they played. Only once before had the United States been shut out in the first period, and that was by the Soviet Union, which eventually beat the United States, 7-5.
Veteran Scott Fusco finally got a shot past Friesen when he shoveled a pass from Lane MacDonald off the left post and watched it bounce in with 14:06 left in the game. That put the score at 3-1, but the Americans were too far behind with too little time left.
Three and a half minutes earlier, the West Germans opened a three-goal lead when Peter Obresa scored into a virtually open U.S. net. Goaltender Mike Richter watched Georg Franz wheel around defenseman Greg Brown and skate toward him with the puck. When Richter committed to Franz, he passed to Obresa for the easy goal.
The West Germans scored twice within 3 1/2 minutes in the first period to take a 2-0 lead, then stymied the U.S. team at every turn.
The West Germans scored their final goal with only 51 seconds left in the game when Roy Roedger sent the puck into the Americans' empty net as defenseman Brian Leetch gamely tried to get in the way.
Perhaps even more disappointing to the United States was the fact that it had a four-minute power play starting with six minutes remaining in the game and could manage only one shot on goal.
Andreas Niederberger received a two-minute penalty for hooking and another two-minute penalty for using a stick with an illegal curvature. The U.S. coaches apparently knew about the stick well before they asked the officials to inspect it. If the stick had not been illegal, the United States would have been assessed a two-minute penalty. Peterson said he waited so long to have the stick checked because of the threat of the penalty to his team had his charge been incorrect.
"It's a risk," Peterson said. "Whether it was the right time, you can decide."
Even though the Americans were right, the game was too far out of reach for it to matter.
The first period was a nightmare for the Americans. They gave up two goals, had a penalty shot called against them and could not get the puck past Friesen, who played for the New Jersey Devils for four games a couple years ago.
Ninety seconds into the game, James Johannson hit the crossbar. Not a minute later, Corey Millen, the leading scorer in the Olympic tournament with 10 points, fired a slap shot that would have gone in were it not for a fine glove save by Friesen. These were not good signs for the Americans.
The West Germans, meanwhile, were connecting on their shots. With 8:41 left in the period, the puck bounced past U.S. defenseman Jeff Norton at the blue line and was picked up by Gerd Truntschka. On a two-on-one break, Truntschka passed to Dieter Hegen, who deked Richter and then slipped the puck past Richter's left side for the first goal of the game.
In 16 seconds, the Americans were in trouble again. Roedger broke in on Richter and as he closed in, Richter slid his stick at Roedger to knock the puck away. Goaltenders are not allowed to do that, so Roedger was awarded a penalty shot.
He methodically skated toward Richter and tried to backhand the puck, but Richter stuck out his right leg and deflected it with his right pad. On his knees, he raised his arms in triumph.
But his happiness didn't last long. In another three minutes, the West Germans were ahead by two, which was as good as being ahead by four. Ron Fischer flicked in a rebound off a shot by Peter Draisaitl with 5:28 left. Richter's save on Draisaitl's shot bounced far from the crease and Fischer simply slapped it in.
In the second period, the West Germans began to bunch up in the U.S. end, playing more and more defensively as the period wore on. They didn't need to score anymore. All they had to do was play defense, and they did it quite well.
"We wanted to put the Americans under pressure, but didn't want to leave a big space in the back so they could score," said West German Coach Xaver Unsinn.
When the game ended, the West Germans leaped for joy and the U.S. hockey players hung their heads. Said Peterson: "They're disappointed but they're not crushed. They're big boys . . . The world didn't end. We only lost a hockey game."
Austria 4, Norway 4:
Because of the tie, both teams ended preliminary round play without a victory.
Norway's Geir Hoff scored with 12:08 left in the game to tie it for the last time in the matchup of teams with no medal hopes.
Norway took a 3-1 lead on a pair of second-period goals by Stephen Foyn. But Austria got the next three scores to go ahead, 4-3, including the tying goal at 6:06 of the third period.