VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- The best American forward was finally the best Team USA forward.
His name is
And early on the third period Wednesday in the Olympic quarterfinals against the exasperating Swiss, Parise came face-to-face with a six-by-four foot piece of Plexiglas named
The shots were decidedly asymmetrical -- the U.S. had a 32-8 advantage after two periods -- but the numbers on the scoreboard at this moment were perfectly round. Team USA 0, Team Switzerland 0. The Americans had been playing kitchen-sink hockey, throwing everything they had at Hiller, but nothing was going in. Well, one puck had. At the end of the second period, a
In Switzerland people undoubtedly were saying, in four official languages: "Do you believe in technology. Yes!"
Team USA's disallowed goal could have been the worst possible sendoff to the dressing room. There was the natural deflation of no goal, which meant that group hug on the ice and the first bumps from the bench had to be rescinded. Then there was the prospect of staring for one more period at the human force field down the other end of the ice, always blocking the way after another in the spate of turnovers by a team that took care of the puck the way a teenager takes care of his room. Parise already had clanged a shot off the post, and Hiller had robbed him with a Houdini save off the knob of his goal stick. For the youngest team in the tournament -- average age: 26.5 -- it would have been understandable the players felt that Hiller had crawled into their brains and rewired the synapses.
"You can get a little antsy," American defenseman
Twelve seconds after an early Swiss penalty in the third period, defenseman
"It's a relief," Parise said. "It's fun to score in a tight game. Whether it's here or in the NHL, it's always nice in a tight game where you feel like you need a breakthrough. I was really excited after it." Game over, even with 18 minutes left. You know good ol' Switzerland. The Swiss can protect a 1-0 deficit better than any of the remaining quarterfinalists, sitting on Canada's lead not for lack of energy but lack of scoring talent.
In the waning seconds, Parise chipped the puck out of the American zone, chased it down and slid it into the empty Swiss net.
USA 2, Switzerland 0 (
"He's working his butt off," Team USA center
Ten days ago if you had said the United States would be 4-0 and the top seed and guaranteed to play in a medal game, well, to paraphrase coach
"I haven't seen it in a long time, even in the NHL," Gleason said of the myriad blocked shots "Guys were laying down left and right. Guys are getting their nose dirty and that's what wins championships and medals."
"The team that we picked, we were looking for balance, not all-stars, guys who you have to twist their arms to get in a shooting lane," Wilson said. "We've got a lot of guys on our team who do this for a living. Gleason must have blocked six or seven shots.
The best news for Team USA: there is room to grow. Parise has yet to find any synchronization with first-line center
But with Parise flying and the picket fence of shot blockers willing to get in harm's way, a magical run continues.
Sometimes it's the red, white, and blue. Sometimes it's the red, white, black and blue.