- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The United States nearly got a dose of its own medicine Wednesday afternoon at Canada Hockey Place, running into a red-hot goaltender who was making stop after spectacular stop and frustrating an opponent who were firing shot after shot on goal.

On Sunday, the U.S. clinched the top seed in the medal round thanks to a stellar performance by Ryan Miller, who made 42 saves in a dramatic 5-3 win over favored Canada.

On Wednesday, the heavily-favored Americans had their hands full against Swiss goalie Jonas Hiller, who plays in the NHL for the Anaheim Ducks. The U.S. was stymied by Hiller for 42 frustrating minutes before the Americans muscled in two goals in the third period.

Zach Parise saved the U.S. from a monumental upset by tipping a puck over Hiller’s glove just 2:08 into the third period on the Americans’ 35th shot of the contest.

“We threw [42] shots at [Hiller] and something was going to go in,” Parise told the press following the game.

The United States’ own stellar netminder, Miller, earned his first shutout of the Games, stopping all 19 shots he faced — with some help from a goal post.

Switzerland only put eight shots on Miller through the first two periods, and after the U.S. took the lead, the Buffalo Sabres netminder was able to shut the door on the Swiss bid for an equalizer.

“We knew it was going to come down to a tight game,” Miller told the New York Times afterwards.

It wasn’t all Miller, however, as one Swiss drive early in the third period just after the U.S. took the lead hit the inside of the far post, and rolled across the goal line before just clearing the opposite post and out of harm’s way. While the red light went on leading to a brief Swiss celebration, video replays confirmed that the puck never crossed the line and the shutout remained intact.

Parise finally sealed the win with :11.2 left in regulation, scoring in an empty net to finalize the score at 2-0.

The Swiss may have been tired after beating Belarus 3-2 in a shootout Thursday afternoon, but they gave the U.S. fits, as they did in a 3-1 win last Tuesday to open the tournament. Switzerland combined a gutty effort and some great netminding to give themselves a chance for the biggest upset in their nation’s hockey history.

But Parise’s redirected goal and Miller were enough to keep Switzerland off the scoreboard and keep the Americans’ hopes for a medal alive.

“I feel good and we feel good about the way we played,” Parise told reporters afterwards. “We feel good about going to the semis.”

For a program that few thought had a chance at the podium in Vancouver with a younger team lacking some of the star power of others in the tournament, the United States now just needs one win in their next two games to earn at least a bronze for the tournament.

But the stars are aligning for the U.S., as the three teams considered medal favorites as the tournament began — Canada, Russia and Sweden — are housed on the other side of the bracket and all but one will be eliminated by the time the U.S. would face any of them Sunday in the gold-medal game.

As it is, the Americans will face Finland at 3 p.m. ET Friday for the right to play for gold, and while a solid club, doesn’t possess the depth or talent of the tournament favorites eliminating each other on the other side of the bracket.

The United States has just one Olympic medal in men’s hockey since the “Miracle on Ice” team in 1980 — the silver at the Salt Lake Olympics in 2002.

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