Single-Digit Soccer: Making our own “Miracle”

In the new ESPN “30 for 30” documentary Of Miracles and Men, we see footage of Anatoli Tarasov, the man given the unlikely job of starting Soviet ice hockey from scratch. In a 1992 interview, he says he was told he would have little to see of other countries’ games and would need to “work on his own hockey.” “They were right!” he exclaims.

More footage from his coaching days shows him imploring players to smile, have fun, and love each other. He borrowed more from ballet than Canadian hockey.

His daughter, Tatiana Tarasova, picks up the thread in the present day with a brilliant quote:

“If you follow someone else’s road, you will never get ahead.”

Does this apply at all to U.S. youth soccer?

(Tarasova, incidentally, coached and choreographed figure skaters such as Michelle Kwan, Sasha Cohen, Johnny Weir, etc.)

Sochi recap: Women’s ice hockey, Switzerland-Russia

A classic goaltender’s battle: Russia’s 20-year-old Anna Prugova vs. Switzerland’s Florence Schelling, the two-time Hockey East player of the year at Northeastern University. Prugova was nearly perfect. Schelling was better.

Date: 15-Feb

Sport: Women’s ice hockey

Event: Switzerland vs. Russia

Score: Switzerland 2, Russia 0

What happened: A tense scoreless affair for 30 minutes until Switzerland’s Stefanie Marty scored halfway through the second period. Russia couldn’t convert four power plays through two periods.

The host country came out hard in the third and peppered Florence Schelling, outshooting the Swiss 19-7. But the Swiss did a nice job of clearing traffic so Schelling could see the shots coming.

Russia pulled goalie Anna Prugova with 90 seconds left and piled on the pressure. But the Swiss defense blocked a couple of shots and sent Lara Stalder the other way with the puck. The Russian defense retreated in front of the open net, but Stalder calmly buried her shot to seal the game and a semifinal date with Canada.

Ominously, just after the final horn sounded on the Russian women’s Olympic hopes, the men conceded a go-ahead goal to the USA.


Sochi recap: Men’s ice hockey, Finland vs. Norway

In the Scandinavian matchup, Finland is undefeated against Norway. They kept it that way tonight with a blowout.

Date: 14-Feb

Sport: Men’s hockey

Event: Finland vs. Norway

Score: Finland 6, Norway 1

What happened: Finland came out firing as they scored two goals in a 1:05 span in the 1st. The Finns dominated play. After another goal with 2:30 left in the period, the Norwegians changed their goalie.

In the second the Finns still dominated and scored two more goals on the backup goaltender, Lars Volden. The goals were from Korpikoski and Jokinen three minutes apart.

In the third period Norway started off with a 5-on-3 power play and scored to make it 5-1. To put the nail in the coffin, Maatta scored with 2:19 left in the game. Final score 6-1 Finland.

From Jimmy Halmhuber

Sochi recap: Men’s ice hockey, Canada-Austria

Let’s see — the country in which hockey is a way of life, or the team with only three NHL players on the roster? Who are you picking?

Date: 14-Feb

Sport: Men’s hockey

Event: Canada vs. Austria

Score: Canada 6, Austria 0

What happened: Drew Doughty and Shea Weber scored at roughly the 5- and 10-minute marks to stake Canada to a 2-0 lead after one. Canada’s Jeff Carter took a tripping penalty just 29 seconds into the second period, then came out of the box and scored within 10 seconds. Then scored again 90 minutes later. Then again later in the period. That’s a natural hat trick.

Austrian goalie Bernhard Starkbaum stopped a penalty shot from Corey Perry but surrendered a short-handed goal to Ryan Getzlaf a couple of minutes later. Austria switched goalies, and Mathias Lange stopped all 15 Canadian shots in the third period.


Sochi recap: Men’s ice hockey, Sweden-Switzerland

A stingy Swiss team frustrated high-powered Sweden, but the Swedish veterans managed to get the only goal they needed in the last 10 minutes for the win.

Date: 14-Feb

Sport: Men’s hockey

Event: Sweden vs. Switzerland

Score: Sweden 1, Switzerland 0

What happened: For two periods, nothing. Switzerland rotated goalies, benching L.A. Kings goalie Jonas Hiller despite an opening 1-0 shutout over Latvia. Reto Berra, who just made the move to the NHL with Calgary this season, proved to be difficult to solve as well.

Sweden, which just lost captain Henrik Zetterberg to a back injury, took a while to get going. Switzerland, which still has more than half its roster in its domestic league rather than the NHL, outshot the Swedes 13-5 in the first period. Switzerland turned that around in the second with 17 shots to Switzerland’s seven.

The breakthrough came on a nice counterattack and a bad rebound. Defenseman Erik Karlsson, leading Sweden in ice time to that point, swung out wide and put a shot on net. Berra made the save but let it slide to his right, where five-time Olympian Daniel Alfredsson quickly swooped in to tap it into an empty net with 7:21 left.

Did we mention Sweden has Henrik Lundqvist in net? And Sweden kept the pressure off him late, pinning Switzerland in its own end and making it difficult to pull Berra. The goalie finally reached the bench with less than a minute left, and Sweden again came up with possession for several vital seconds. Switzerland found an opening on the right wing for one last shot with 10 seconds left, but Lundqvist had it covered.


2014 medal projections: Hockey

Once upon a time, the Olympics were the only time the world’s best athletes faced each other in many sports. That’s not true in most sports these days, but it applies to men’s hockey. The men’s World Championship takes place during the NFL playoffs, thereby depriving the tournament of most of the world’s best players. And those tournaments play a big role in the rankings that we need to take with a whole bunch of salt.

The women’s competition is a little easier to predict. The best players are all available for international events, and the USA and Canada keep playing each other. They’re also unquestionably the top two teams in the world. Finland has finished third in 10 of the 15 World Championships and two of the four Olympics. Russia finished third in 2013 and is playing at home.

Into the boards we go …


Gold: Sweden
Silver: Canada
Bronze: Russia

Also considered: Finland, USA

2013 world ranking: Sweden, Finland, Russia, Czech Republic, Canada, USA, Switzerland, Slovakia

2013 World Championships: Sweden, Switzerland, USA, Finland, Canada, Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia

2010 Olympics: Canada, USA, Finland, Slovakia, Sweden, Russia, Czech Republic, Switzerland


Gold: USA
Silver: Canada
Bronze: Finland

Also considered: Russia

2013 world ranking: USA, Canada, Finland, Russia, Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, Slovakia

2013 World Championships: USA, Canada, Russia, Finland, Switzerland, Germany, Czech Republic, Sweden

2010 Olympics: Canada, USA, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, Russia, China, Slovakia



Canada: Sidney Crosby (C, Pittsburgh), Ryan Getzlaf (C, Anaheim), Steven Stamkos (C, Tampa Bay – injury concern), Corey Perry (RW, Anaheim), Martin St. Louis (RW, Tampa Bay), Duncan Keith (D, Chicago), Drew Doughty (D, Los Angeles), P.J. Subban (D, Montreal), Carey Price (G, Montreal), Roberto Luongo (G, Vancouver)

Czech Republic: Jaromir Jagr (RW, New Jersey), Jiri Hudler (C, Calgary), David Krejci (C, Calgary), Patrik Elias (LW, New Jersey), Radim Vrbata (RW, Phoenix), Marek Zidlicky (D, New Jersey)

Finland: Mikko Koivu (C, Minnesota), Valtteri Filppula (C, Tampa Bay), Jussi Jokinen (LW, Pittsburgh), Olli Jokinen (C, Winnipeg), Saku Koivu (C, Anaheim), Kimmo Timonen (D, Philadelphia), Tuukka Rask (G, Boston), Antti Niemi (G, San Jose)

Russia: Alex Ovechkin (LW, Washington), Evgeni Malkin (C, Pittsburgh), Pavel Datsyuk (C, Detroit), Ilya Kovalchuk (LW, SKA St. Petersburg), Alexander Semin (RW, Carolina), Andrei Markov (D, Montreal), Alexei Emelin (D, Montreal), Sergei Bobrovsky (G, Columbus)

Slovakia: Marian Hossa (RW, Chicago), Zdeno Chara (D, Boston), Jaroslav Halak (G, St. Louis)

Sweden: Henrik Lundqvist (G, NY Rangers), Daniel Sedin (LW, Vancouver), Henrik Sedin (C, Vancouver), Henrik Zetterberg (C, Detroit), Nicklas Backstrom (C, Washington), Erik Karlsson (D, Ottawa)

USA: Patrick Kane (RW, Chicago), Zach Parise (LW, Minnesota), Ryan Kesler (C, Vancouver), Phil Kessel (RW, Toronto), Ryan Suter (D, Minnesota), Ryan Miller (G, Buffalo), Jonathan Quick (G, Los Angeles)


Canada: Marie-Philip Poulin (2013 World Championship leading scorer and MVP), Catherine Ward (top-scoring defenseman at 2013 Worlds), Hayley Wickenheiser (20-year veteran), Gillian Apps (bruiser). Had some turmoil with coach Dan Church stepping down in late December.

Finland: Jenni Hiirikoski (2013 World Championship defensive award), Noora Raty (140 saves at 2013 Worlds), Michelle Karvinen (team-leading three goals at 2013 Worlds)

Russia: Nadezhda Alexandrova (2013 World Championship goaltending award; 98.63 save percentage at Worlds), Yekaterina Smolentseva (three goals at 2013 Worlds), Anna Shibanova (active defenseman)

USA: Brianna Decker (six goals in 2013 Worlds), Amanda Kessel (six assists in 2013 Worlds), Jessie Vetter (starting goalie)