Stuck in neutral, U.S. looks to gear up for Canadians LILLEHAMMER 94

February 17, 1994|By Mike Preston | Mike Preston,Sun Staff Writer

LILLEHAMMER, Norway -- U.S. hockey coach Tim Taylor has remained calm through his team's two ties in Olympic play, but the United States will have to elevate its game today when it plays Canada.

Canada (2-0) leads the division, and the United States (0-0-2) is tied for third with Slovakia. The Canadians were 2-8-1 against the Americans in pre-Olympic play, but Canada has an 8-2-2 record against U.S. teams in Olympic competition.

The last time the teams played in the Olympics was in 1984.

A loss to Canada would leave the Americans with just two points from three games, and second-seeded Sweden still to come. Losses to Canada and Sweden would force the U.S. to beat lightly regarded Italy in their last preliminary game to have a chance at the medal round.

"I have a great deal of respect for Canada's program and their discipline," said Taylor. "They are well coached and will come out ready."

That's been a problem for the United States. The Americans have fallen behind early to France and Slovakia. Both times the Americans rallied from two-goal deficits to tie lower-seeded teams.

Taylor says his team is too uptight.

"I want our players to raise their game to the Olympic level," said Taylor. "We can't do that if we're uptight, nervous or jittery.

The key is for us to get ourselves off to a good start."

Another key is stopping Canadian forward Paul Kariya, the No. 1 pick in the 1993 NHL entry draft by the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. Kariya is flashy and as good a passer as he is a shooter.

He won the Hobey Baker Award, equivalent to college football's Heisman Trophy, last season as a freshman at the University of Maine, where he helped the Black Bears win the NCAA championship.

Team USA is familiar with Kariya because five of its members are from Maine.

"You can't give him a lot of space on the ice," said defenseman Matt Martin, a Maine teammate of Kariya's. "You've got to make him rush his decisions."

The USA also will have to slow down Peter Nedved, a line mate of Kariya's who has played three seasons in the NHL.

Taylor confirmed yesterday that Garth Snow would start in goal for the second straight game. Snow started against Slovakia Tuesday in place of Mike Dunham, who struggled in the opener against France.

Snow stopped 30 of 33 shots against Slovakia.

"We're getting more comfortable with each other, and the good news is that we haven't lost yet," said Snow. "Sooner or later, we're going to break out and score some goals."

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