U.S., Canada square off for gold (3)

Fifty years ago Sunday in the small resort town of Squaw Valley, Calif., the U.S. men’s hockey team won its first-ever Olympic gold medal by capping an unbeaten tournament with a victory.

This year’s team will look to repeat that moment in U.S. history when they play for the gold medal against Canada in Vancouver, as the nation’s third-ever men’s hockey gold is on the line.

The United States is the only unbeaten team in this year’s tournament, having outscored their opponents 22-6 in five straight wins — the longest an American team has gone without a loss or tie in an Olympic tournament since the 1960 squad.

Few people expected this kind of success out of this particular squad, as unlike some of the other teams in the tournament, the U.S. has only three players with previous Olympic experience, and had to rely on its young talent like Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane.

“A gold medal would be unbelievable,” Kane told Sports Illustrated Friday. “It’s something you see so many athletes work so hard for. For me personally, I know I’m pretty young at 21, and I hope I’ll have a couple of more opportunities. … You mention the Olympics, you get one chance every four years. To do it this year in my first opportunity would be very special.”

“We’re very excited about the opportunity we’ve been given, with so many of us at a young age,” Jack Johnson told the magazine. “This is the most unselfish team I’ve ever played with. Every single guy on that team will lay it on the line on Sunday. Diving headfirst into shots. Getting pucks out at the blueline. No one cares who scores the goals.”

But standing in the way of perfection and the gold medal is the host Canadians, who were heavy favorites coming into the tournament and feature three Hart Trophy winners on their talent-laden roster.

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Related:

Canada will win 5-3, predicts Don Cherry

Notes:

The game begins at 3:00 pm EST — twenty minutes from now.

Update:

7:40 pm EST, February 28th, 2010 — Canada Beats United States 3-2 in Overtime in Men’s Hockey

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