CALGARY, FEB. 27 -- A besieged Soviet hockey team celebrated one of its most impressive Olympic triumphs Friday night at the Saddledome, then told the world it came about through old-fashioned hard work.

"There has been a lot of criticism of the team and the coach, that we lowered the standards of the game," Coach Viktor Tikhonov said. "Everything is measured in first place. Second place is a failure. For any team and any coach, that's an incredible burden. And yet, throughout all the last year, we have very deliberately sought to improve the quality of the Soviet team.

"Our relative lack of success led many into error about the actual strength of the Soviet team."

After losing the world championships, the Canada Cup and its own Izvestia tournament, the Soviet hockey team entered the Olympics with uncertainty.

It left with the gold medal, its seventh in nine Winter Olympics. The U.S.S.R.'s 7-1 victory over Sweden Friday clinched first place with one game left on Sunday. The Soviets, dominant throughout the Olympics, were tested only once, in the third period of their game with the United States, when they gave up three goals but still won, 7-5.

"Any athlete's main goal is to win a gold medal at the Olympic games," Tikhonov said.

Tikhonov, who said he believes he will return as Soviet head coach for the world championships next year, refused to say if any of his players will move on to the NHL. He said a move would require the approval of the player, his club back in the Soviet Union and the Soviet hockey federation.

"A decision," he said, "has to be made elsewhere."

Canada 6, Czechoslovakia 3: Gord Sherven scored three goals and the hosts kept alive slim hopes for a bronze medal with a 6-3 victory in their last game of the Olympic hockey tournament.

Canada got solid goaltending from Andy Moog and goals from three players for a 3-1 first period lead.

The victory gave the Canadians five points, the same as Finland and one more than Sweden, both of which have games to play on Sunday. It also eliminated any medal chances for West Germany.

However, if Sweden beats West Germany on Sunday, the Canadians will be deprived of a medal in their own Olympics.

The Canadians can also be eliminated if Sweden ties West Germany and the gold medal-winning Soviets beat Finland in Sunday's other game.