Tampa Bay Lightning
Team USA on brink of medal in Stockholm
Thursday's meeting between Team USA and Russia in the quarterfinals of the World Championships was not exactly the Miracle on Ice.
But it was stunning, nonetheless, to see the Americans beat the defending world champions 8-3 at Hartwell Arena in Helsinki, Finland. The five-goal loss was the worst for Russia/Soviet Union in the world championship format.
Though it may not be the same rivalry it was back in the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, New York, it was still a special meeting between two of the world's hockey powers.
“It's always going to be a rivalry, it's two pretty proud countries,'' said Lightning defenseman Matt Carle, who has two assists for Team USA while averaging 18:05 of ice time, tied for third on the team.
“There has been more success on their side if you look at the Olympics and things like that, but there are some familiar faces we play against in the NHL and you want to win those games. We were all pretty disappointed we lost to them in the round robin, but it felt good to beat them in the quarters.''
That victory put Team USA — which features Lightning forward Nate Thompson and goaltender Ben Bishop along with Carle – into today's semifinals against undefeated Switzerland at Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden. The winner advances to Sunday's gold medal game while the loser will play for a bronze medal.
Finland and Sweden meet in the other semifinal.
The U.S. team will be looking to earn a medal at the World Championships for the first time since capturing bronze in 2004. They have not won a gold medal since 1960, when the Olympics and World Championships were decided in the same tournament.
Bishop, who entered the two-week tournament as the No. 1 goaltender, has been replaced by 19-year-old John Gibson, an Anaheim draft pick who led the United States to a World Junior Championship gold medal in January. Bishop is 3-2 with a 2.84 goals-against average and .876 save percentage in five starts.
Thompson, who played in last year's World Championships, picked up his first goal in Thursday's victory against Russia and has three points.
“It's been a whirlwind,” Carle said. “Our team has gotten better each game. And since the first game, (we're) getting used to the bigger ice surface and how teams play over here because it's more of a puck possession game and you have to be patient, try to protect the middle of the ice as much as you can.
“We've had some success doing that.''