MERIBEL, France -- The grudge match is called on account of TTC politics, but the matchup remains electric: The United States against the Unified Team, which used to be the Soviet Union, in the semifinals of the Olympic hockey tournament.
That it will happen tomorrow was assured yesterday when the Unified Team easily defeated Finland, 6-1, in a medal-round quarterfinal game broken open by three second-period goals.
"I don't care what they're called now, they're still the Russian hockey team," said forward Marty McInnis of the unbeaten U.S. team. "We'll have to play our best game to win."
The greatest American victory in Olympic hockey history was an upset of the Soviets in Lake Placid in 1980. That game also was a medal-round semifinal played in the afternoon.
This Unified Team is not as strong as that Soviet team was, with many of the best former Soviet players now in the NHL. But the Unifieds are still formidable, as they demonstrated yesterday.
Finland lost its composure in the second period and committed six penalties, meaning they were a man short for 12 of the 20 minutes. The Unified Team took advantage three times.
"We were sluggish until we scored the third goal, and after that we played very well," said assistant Unified Team coach Igor Dmitriev.
The Unified Team's Andrei Khomoutov broke a 1-1 tie with a rebound goal late in the first period. Khomoutov is the team's leading scorer with six goals and five assists in six games. The Soviets have a 5-1 record, with the only loss to Czechoslovakia.
The other semifinal matches Czechoslovakia and Canada. The gold-medal game is Sunday.