- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 23, 2002

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah Biased drug tests. Dastardly hockey officials. Sale and Pelletier.
To the list of Russian bellyaches in these Winter Olympics, add Phil Housley and Mike Richter.
On the 22nd anniversary of the "Miracle on Ice," Housley scored the winning goal and Richter withstood a furious third-period onslaught as the U.S. men's hockey team advanced to the gold medal match by defeating Russia 3-2 last night at E Center.
"It's almost too good to be true, being in the gold medal game," said U.S. captain Chris Chelios. "This was our destiny. Now it's our job to finish it."
Team USA faces Canada, a 7-1 winner over Belarus, in tomorrow's final. Russia will meet Belarus in the bronze medal match.
Bill Guerin and Scott Young each scored a goal and Richter had 28 saves for Team USA, which extended its undefeated streak on home soil to 24 games.
"Someone different has come up big for us every night," said U.S. center Mike Modano. "Tonight it was Housley in the second, Richter in the third. It's been a collective effort."
In the original 1980 "Miracle," an underdog squad of U.S. collegians led by current American coach Herb Brooks defeated an imposing Soviet team that included current Russia coach Slava Fetisov in the Olympic medal round at Lake Placid, N.Y.
This time around, both teams were comprised primarily of NHL players some of them teammates and Cold War resonance was entirely lacking. However, the evening did feature a smidgen of political intrigue, thanks to a ticked-off Russian delegation that threatened to boycott the match.
Furious over judgments against them in several sports including the officiating in a hockey match against the Czech Republic that Team Russia won the Russians said Thursday night that they might withdraw their athletes from the Games.
While the Russians quickly backed off from that threat, the country's parliament yesterday passed a unanimous resolution urging Russian athletes to boycott the Closing Ceremony unless Olympic officials met a list of demands, including barring North American officials from the United States-Russia showdown.
"Nobody [from the Russian delegation] talked to me about the situation, but it's kind of disrupting," Fetisov said. "I told the players last night that they would play, so be ready."
Bill McCreary, a North American, refereed the match. Team USA scored all three of its goals on power plays and led Russia in man-advantage time by 1 minutes.
"I thought [the officiating] was pretty fair," said Russian goalkeeper Nikolai Khabibulin. "We shouldn't try to look for some fault."
Down 3-0 at the start of the third period, Team Russia opened with an offensive flurry. Alexei Kovalev wristed a shot though Richter's legs just 11 seconds in; three minutes later, Vladimir Malakhov scored on a slap shot from the blue line to make it 3-2.
In the period, Russia outshot Team USA 19-11. Afterward, Brooks was asked if the last 10 minutes of the match reminded him of the "Miracle" game, in which the U.S. barely held off an all-out push by the Soviets.
"The last 10 minutes reminded me of the last 10 minutes," Brooks said. "I don't want to go back that way. You give that team that much room and have a few errors, and it's a horse race."
That the Americans were able to finish first was largely due to Richter, who made stick stops, glove grabs and a sprawling, snow angel save that ended with the keeper on his back flailing like an upside-down turtle and his stick jammed into the post.
Richter, who led Team USA to the 1996 World Championship, has spent much of the last two NHL seasons recovering from torn ligaments in both knees.
"Mike is unbelievable," said U.S. forward Doug Weight. "What he's gone through with the surgeries … we're lucky to have him."
Just past the 10-minute mark, the Americans were luckier still. After Richter deflected a shot by Alexi Yashin, Sergei Samsonov pounced on the rebound and fired a shot that hit the right post.
"You know Russia isn't going to roll over and die for you in the last period," Richter said.
Team Russia certainly looked dead otherwise. One week earlier, the teams played to a 2-2 tie in which the Russians dictated the flow against a tired American team coming off the NHL schedule and a match the previous day.
Yesterday, however, it was Team USA that opened strong. Controlling the puck and forechecking with abandon, the Americans ripped off five shots in the first 2 minutes; for the first two periods, they outshot Russia 38-11.
With just over four minutes remaining in the first period Guerin got his stick on a loose puck in front of net and zipped it past Khabibulin, who had stopped 41 shots in a 1-0 quarterfinal victory over the Czech Republic.
Young added a rebound goal off a shot by Housley midway through the second, and Housley scored 10 minutes later on a long rebound and slap shot past Khabibulin.
The Americans next meet Canada in the Olympic final, an all-North American affair that will match friends, professional teammates and two dressing rooms full of NHL All-Stars.
"It's bigger than [big]," said U.S. forward Jeremy Roenick. "It's a dream game of the ages."

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