VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Here we go again.

A week ago, on what was called Super Sunday, the Americans beat the Canadians in the Olympics for the first time in 50 years. Today, the U.S. will try to become Olympic champions on the 50th anniversary of their out-of-nowhere gold medal in Squaw Valley, Calif.; the only other American hockey gold was the Miracle on Ice in Lake Placid 30 years ago.

No, one game wasn’t nearly enough.

Canada, the hockey superpower, was always was supposed to play for the gold medal on home ice in the very country that invented hockey. The United States, the infrequent power that hasn’t won a hockey gold outside its own borders, has been the best team in the Olympics so far.

Beating Canada on Canadian ice with a pro-Canadian crowd once was difficult enough for the U.S., the surprise of the tournament and the only unbeaten team remaining.

”It’s hard to be a team twice in a tournament like this,” U.S. Coach Ron Wilson said. ”But we’ve beaten Canada, and we’ll play better than we did the last time we played against them.”

The Americans have no choice unless they’re to leave the Olympics with the silver for the second time in three Olympics. Canada also beat them in Salt Lake City eight years ago.

”We all talked, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice?’ and now we have the opportunity,” said Ryan Miller, arguably the best goalie in the games. ”We have the talent. We have some youthful excitement, we have the right kind of veteran players.”

A decidedly young U.S. team is the only team to win every game in regulation in Vancouver, and it owns two of the most impressive victories by beating Canada 5-3 and 2006 silver medalist Finland 6-1 in the semifinals.

The Canadians have been very good since losing to the U.S., blowing out Germany 8-2 and Russia 7-3, but they’ve also shown some vulnerability. The Americans’ speed confounded them, and they barely held on to beat Slovakia 3-2 in the semifinals Friday night as Roberto Luongo gave up two late goals.

Canada’s confidence apparently wasn’t shaken by last Sunday’s loss. Coach Mike Babcock was half-smiling after the Slovakia game when he said the U.S. should be favored, and defenseman Shea Weber said, ”They did beat us, but now it’s a whole different game.”


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