[T]he young and brash Americans had silenced not only the capacity crowd at Canada Hockey Place, but an entire nation with a gritty 5-3 win that featured two goals by Rafalski, single strikes from both Langenbrunner and Drury and 42 saves from Miller.
"Those guys know what to do to win," said American coach Ron Wilson.
David Backes, part of America's youth brigade couldn't suppress a smile when asked about the veterans stepping to the fore Sunday.
"Veteran leadership; there's not much of it, but those are the guys that came here tonight and got it done," said Backes, who is making a name for himself on the international game's biggest stage. "Ryan Miller, Brian Rafalski, Jamie Langenbrunner. Those are guys that are blue-collar and get it done."
They certainly did Sunday, against what many considered the longest of odds.
Canada entered this tournament as the odd-on favorite and, on paper, was better than the Americans at almost every position. Now, the Canadians (1-1-0-1, 5 points) are relegated to Tuesday's qualification round, forced to play Germany in an unwanted winner-take-all game.
The Americans (3-0-0-0, 9 points) not only win Group A, but will have one of the top-two seeds in Wednesday's quarterfinal round.
While I'm excited, I doubt this win is yet capturing the imagination of Americans from sea to sea.
1980 won't be duplicated. It can't be. Those were different times.
The Soviet Union and other Soviet Bloc countries fielded teams that were amateur in name only, unofficial pros from the Red Army teams. More importantly, it was still the Cold War, and besides that, the US had endured a 10+ year malaise. The country needed something to believe in and rally behind, and this was it.
Since those conditions don't exist, I love the fact of the NHL pros in the Games. The competition is as level as it's ever been, and at a high level besides. People think of Canada & Russia as the top teams, but the Swedes won the last gold, and are undefeated with the US. Great hockey!
The US is not assured a medal yet, but they are spared the first round of elimination games. After that, win one game, and the US will advance to the medal round.
The US women are in the same spot, having won their preliminary games. I do hope the women's final is US-Canada. Unlike the men's game, there is great disparity in national talent, and the North American squads are far and away the most talented.