- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 21, 2002

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah Team Germany entered yesterday's Olympic quarterfinal against the U.S. men's hockey team with a simple plan: bunker down, and wait for a break.

The break came only it wasn't the one the Germans had in mind. Behind a determined attack and three-goal flurry in the second period, Team USA dispatched outmanned Germany in lopsided fashion, 5-0 at E Center.

After watching upstart Belarus defeat favored Sweden 4-3 in a morning match, the Americans were determined to avoid the same fate.

"It was heavily talked about in the locker room," said U.S. forward Jeremy Roenick. "We were in a state of shock. We knew the Germans had a patient, disciplined team. We didn't want to be the second team to have [an upset] happen to them."

Roenick and John LeClair each had a goal and an assist and Mike Modano added two assists for the Americans, who face Russia, a 1-0 winner over the Czech Republic, in tomorrow's semifinal round.

The USA-Russia game will come on the 22nd anniversary of the 1980 "Miracle on Ice," in which an underdog U.S. squad led by current U.S. coach Herb Brooks defeated the Soviet Union in the semifinals at Lake Placid, N.Y.

Team USA and Team Russia met in group play last week, producing a hard-fought 2-2 tie that saw the Russians dominate early and the Americans rally late.

"I'm not comparing it to 1980," said U.S. defenseman Gary Suter. "It was a different time. But we're going to have our work cut out for us. We'll have to play our best game."

With the victory, Team USA extended its undefeated streak on U.S. soil to 23 games. The Americans also continued a remarkable turnaround from the 1998 Nagano Games, where the core of the current team embarrassed itself with on-ice ineptitude and off-ice vandalism.

"This team is just getting better," Suter said. "It's a great atmosphere in the locker room. Guys are working hard for one another."

Heading into the match, Team Germany which dressed just two NHL players was confident that its four-men-on-the-blue-line, Fortress Berlin style would give it a chance against a U.S. squad averaging just over five goals per game.

Perhaps emboldened by a tough, 3-2 loss to Canada in group play, the Germans even claimed that they were happier to draw a North American opponent than a European one a notion Brooks found amusing.

"Maybe that's why they lost the Second World War," Brooks joked Tuesday. "So there, I'll draw the line in the sand and you can take that right back [to Team Germany]."

Team USA certainly took it to Germany midway through the second period, notching four goals in just over two minutes.

With the United States leading 2-0 and on a power play, forward Tony Amonte scored on a 2-on-1, give-and-go with Roenick. Less than 30 seconds later, LeClair batted in a Phil Housley rebound to give Team USA a 4-0 lead.

Next came an absolutely gorgeous goal from forward Brett Hull, one of the NHL's top snipers. With his back to the net, Hull flipped a shot between his legs and past German goalkeeper Marc Seligar, sending the partisan crowd into a frenzy.

"That's Brett, the luckiest guy in the world when it comes to shooting the puck," said Modano, a teammate of Hull's with the Dallas Stars. "I've seen a lot of them."

Hull's goal was enough for visibly frustrated and that's being charitable German coach Hans Zach, who yanked Seligar, a former Washington Capitals minor leaguer, in favor of Robert Muller.

The Germans had hoped to have Caps keeper Olie Kolzig in front of the net, but a knee injury kept Kolzig from playing in the Olympics.

"It's impossible [for us] to catch up with the big guys," Zach said. "We needed 23 NHL players, not just two."

American captain Chris Chelios scored Team USA's second goal just 46 seconds into the second period, firing the puck over Seligar's sprawled left leg. Roenick scored the initial American goal midway through the first, cranking a one-timer from the left circle.

Though U.S. keeper Mike Richter wasn't particularly busy, he did contribute a handful of nice saves, including two sprawling, back-to-back stops in the first period.

Following the match, Brooks was asked how today would be different from the day before the 1980 United States-Russia semifinal.

"We're going to go to the [Canada-United States] girls gold medal game," Brooks said to laughter. "That's how it's going to be different."

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