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No 'mirakel' this time: U.S. plows Sweden, 9-1

by John Dellapina
VANCOUVER -- This time, there would be no "mirakel."

This time, the cherubic Kim Martin could not stage a hellacious goaltending display that turned a collection of American women's Olympic dreams into an inconceivable nightmare.

This time, Team USA took the 2-0 lead and just kept pouring it on. This time, Team USA gets the grudge match with Canada for Olympic gold that the entire American women's hockey program has craved ever since 2002 in Salt Lake City.

The grudge match that Martin heisted from them with a performance for the ages in Torino four years ago that gave women's hockey its Miracle on Ice, or "mirakel" in Swedish: the Swedes' astounding semifinal upset of the Americans.

With six returning players from that 2006 team leading the charge and waves of emerging younger players - including Monique Lamoreux, who scored a hat trick -- providing the energy, the American women blasted Martin and Sweden, 9-1, Monday afternoon at Canada Hockey Place in the first of the two semifinal games of the 2010 Olympic women's hockey tournament.

"It didn't have to be said in the room; it was in the back of everybody's heads that this is business and we don't look past anybody," said forward Erika Lawler, one of the 15 Team USA players who did not personally experience the agony of Torino. "Oh sure, there was a little bit extra. It was personal, especially for the older players -- just that we took care of business, nothing personal against Sweden.

"But when you meet the same team four years later in the same situation, there's an extra fire in the belly to make sure you take care of everything - whether it's a backcheck or blocking shots. There's an extra effort to do what it takes to win. This team knows what it takes to win.

"That team four years ago came across a hot goalie and didn't do what it had to be done. This team, I truly believe that we know what it takes to get it done."

The ultimate test of that declaration will come Thursday, when the women's gold-medal match will be played at 7:30 p.m. ET. That is when the Americans, winners of the first Olympic women's ice hockey tournament in 1998 and losers to Canada in the 2002 gold medal game in Salt Lake City, will get to reclaim world supremacy.

Monday afternoon was about exorcising ghosts. Particularly for defenseman Angela Ruggiero, who has been on all four U.S. Olympic teams and couldn't score in two tries against Martin in the shootout that followed 10 minutes of sudden-death overtime in the teams' meeting in Torino.

Martin was otherworldly that day, stopping 35 of 37 American shots through 70 minutes of play and then all five in the shootout as the Swedes rallied from 2-0 down to win, 3-2. Team USA was tight that day, unable to build on its 2-0 lead.

Martin came down to earth and Team USA refused to stop scoring Monday. Martin and Sweden's patience kept it at the same 2-0 through one period. But this time, Ruggiero joined a rush to convert a Jocelyne Lamoreux feed 3:22 into the second and the rout was on.

Team USA Gear"Kim Martin is an excellent goalie," Ruggiero said. "Everyone knows what happened in Torino. And we knew, if we let her stay in the game she would just build confidence in the rest of the team. So I was really happy to see us put a few goals away early and kind of defuse her momentum."

Sweden's lone attempt at resistance consisted of a deft, backhand swat of an airborne puck by Pernilla Winberg on a power play 9:34 into the second that cut it to 4-1. But Karen Thatcher's goal off a Jocelyne Lamoreux feed made it 5-1 four minutes later. And Jocelyne's twin sister Monique completed her hat trick with two of her goals in Team USA's four-goal third.

Four years ago in Torino, Swedish coach Peter Elander pumped up his players by showing them the movie "Miracle" before their meeting with the Americans. And he even trotted out some vintage Herb Brooks lines - Herbieisms - such as "The legs feed the wolf."

Monday, on the 30th anniversary of the American men's historic upset of the Soviets en route to the 1980 gold medal, Elander and his players talked at length about the 2006 "mirakel." But they were trumped. The man coaching Team USA now is Mark Johnson, who merely scored the pivotal goal in the fabled Miracle on Ice game.

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