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Time for Team USA to move on from 2010 gold-medal game

FILE - In this Feb. 28 2010 file phoUSA's Zach Parise (9) celebrates after scoring goal third period men's gold

FILE - In this Feb. 28, 2010, file photo, USA's Zach Parise (9) celebrates after scoring a goal in the third period of the men's gold medal ice hockey game against Canada at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia. Parise, of the Minnesota Wild, will be the captain of the U.S. men's hockey team at the Sochi Olympics. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File) ORG XMIT: NY168

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Updated: February 12, 2014 11:05AM



SOCHI, Russia — Zach Parise was on his couch last month — stuck at home with a foot injury while his Minnesota Wild teammates were on the road — idly flipping through the channels when he stumbled on a familiar sight. And a familiar sound. And then an unfamiliar sensation.

The 2010 gold-medal game from the Vancouver Olympics was on. It was already the second period. And Parise, who never had watched the game after playing in it, couldn’t look away.

‘‘I watched it to the finish,’’ Parise said of a game that the United States sent to overtime on his goal with 24.4 seconds left but that Canada won 3-2 in overtime on a goal by Sidney Crosby. ‘‘I knew the outcome, but you get some weird emotions going through your body when you’re watching it. But it was fun to watch. You could sense the energy in the building. It was awesome.’’

Team USA’s surprising silver medal in 2010 was a source of incredible pride and incredible disappointment. It was a stirring run, carried by Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller’s spectacular play behind a gritty young group of players molded into something resembling an actual team, not just an all-star team. It raised the bar for U.S. hockey and relaunched Team USA into the upper echelon of the hockey world after it failed to medal in six of the previous seven Olympics since the ‘‘Miracle on Ice’’ in 1980.

On the other hand, it was a devastating gut punch — to come so close to beating mighty Canada on its home soil in the biggest game the country had seen.

‘‘It was tough,’’ said Blackhawks star Patrick Kane, who hadn’t seen the game, either, until he watched it on his computer recently. ‘‘Usually by the time you get the bitter taste of losing out of your mouth, you’re coming back to start another season. That one took a little while to get over.”

Asked how long the loss stuck with him, Miller said, ‘‘I don’t know that I’m over it.’’

Now Team USA is back on the world stage in Sochi. And with 13 players from that silver-medal team still on the roster, it won’t be sneaking up on anyone. Now the team is expected to contend for gold.

But now the players know just how difficult that is.

‘‘It’s once every four years, so you don’t get a chance often,’’ Parise said. ‘‘And you never know if you’re going to get in that gold-medal game again. . . . It’s not easy. If it was, the same team would be winning over and over again. You have to have good special teams. You have to get great goaltending. Yeah, ideally, we came here with gold on our mind, and the expectations internally rose a lot. But saying that, there are seven or eight teams that can win it. You just don’t know.’’

Team USA certainly will be in the mix, but the usual powers — Canada, Sweden, Russia — remain in its path. Finland is as solid as ever. Slovakia is a dark horse. The Czech Republic a tough out. And Switzerland goalie Jonas Hiller is certainly capable of ruining the next four years for some country.

It’s the Olympics, the biggest and best tournament in the world. And while Team USA is a bona fide contender now, the road to its first gold medal in 34 years will be as difficult as ever.

That’s why 2010 still stings. So close, yet so far.

‘‘It’s frustrating to think we were that close and missed out,’’ Miller said.‘‘And that’s how we really feel: We missed out. . . . Hopefully, it’s just a lesson learned since we’re four years out. And it can be something inspirational.’’

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @marklazerus



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