The U.S.-Russia hockey rivalry has become a spectacle to watch.
Russia and its predecessor, the Soviet Union, have always had very aggressive hockey teams that run like a well-oiled machine.
But at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, the U.S. team, comprised of college athletes, stunned the Soviets, who had won gold in five of the six previous Winter Games. The Americans beat them 4-3 in the unforgettable “Miracle on Ice” medal-round game.
If that upset wasn’t enough, the Russians were stunned by Team USA in their hometown Sochi Olympics in 2014. The U.S., led by T.J. Oshie, won in a shootout, embarrassing the Russian team with President Vladimir Putin in attendance.
You can bet that coming into Saturday’s game in Pyeongchang, the Russians — playing under the name of the Olympic Athletes from Russia because of a doping scandal — had some extra motivation.
The game was chippy throughout as Russia seemed to target Team USA’s Jordan Greenway, checking him into the boards whenever possible.
To the Americans’ distaste, they were shut out 4-0.
“After the last game in Sochi, I think you guys are still showing the highlights of Oshie scoring those shootouts, right?” former NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk, who scored twice in the game, told reporters afterward. “So hopefully you’re gonna change that now.”
— USA Hockey (@usahockey) February 17, 2018
With less than two minutes left in the third period with a four-goal lead, Russia sent out its top power play unit. NBC analyst Pierre McGuire said on the broadcast that U.S. coach Tony Granato was “furious” about the move.
After the game, Granato didn’t shake hands with his Russian counterpart, Oleg Znarok.
Asked later if Znarok’s decision during the power play angered him, Granato sternly replied, “Yes.”
When asked why, the coach shrugged and said, “It’s four-nothing.”
Luckily for the Americans, the game was not in a medal round, so they’re still alive in the tournament.
But it’s clear there’s no love lost between the two countries’ hockey teams.
“We don’t like each other,” said U.S. defenseman Jonathan Blum. “You can see that from the start of the puck drop.”
“They were banging some bodies around out there tonight,” added Greenway. “But I thought we were too.”
You may recall that before the 1980 Olympics, the U.S. was embarrassed by the Soviets 10-3 in an exhibition game. Perhaps this American team will rally behind its 4-0 loss and pull off a similar incredible run in the medal rounds.
It certainly won’t be easy. The Olympic Athletes from Russia are the favorites to win gold in men’s hockey.
“There is no question that they are the most talented team here based on their roster,” Granato told NBC after the game. “They are a hell of a team.”
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