American Black Bears earn bragging rights

Posted Feb. 22, 2010, at 10:03 p.m.

ORONO, Maine — The 17 American members of the University of Maine men’s hockey team claimed bragging rights over their seven Canadian teammates after Sunday night’s U.S. Olympic hockey team’s 5-3 triumph over the Canadians.

That gave the Americans a bye into the quarterfinals while the Canadians have to beat Germany today to advance into a Wednesday quarterfinal against Russia.

The U.S. will play the winner of Tuesday’s game between Switzerland and Belarus.

“Hockey is supposed to be our sport. When a football country beats us in hockey, it’s kind of a letdown,” said Maine junior defenseman Josh Van Dyk from Woodstock, Ontario. “The U.S. played well in the first two periods. Canada turned it on the last 15 minutes but it was too little, too late. [U.S. goalie Ryan Miller] stood on his head. He made some unbelievable saves.

“It’s going to be tough going into the dressing room hearing from the [American] boys,” grinned Van Dyk.

“Obviously, the U.S. has a good team,” said junior center Tanner House from Cochrane, Alberta. “It was a good game. Canada had an edge in play but their goalie outplayed our goalie [Martin Brodeur]. That’s what it came down to. We still have a chance [to win the gold medal] but it’s a little bit tougher now.”

“I thought there would be a different outcome because of the pace of the game. It was back and forth transition hockey and I didn’t think the U.S. would hold up with the depth and talent of the Canadians,” said sophomore defenseman Ryan Hegarty of Arlington, Mass. “But it was nice to see a lot of guys step up. A lot of U.S. guys aren’t headline guys.”

“They have a lot of hard-working role players and it serves them well,” said junior defenseman Jeff Dimmen from Colorado Springs, Colo. “It was a real good game. [Miller] came up huge in the last couple of minutes and there were a couple of big blocks, too.”

“The U.S. kept it simple and limited Canada’s chances even though Canada had more possession and was all over them [at times]. Miller was unbelievable,” said sophomore left wing Brian Flynn from Lynnfield, Mass.

Maine junior defenseman Mike Banwell from Scarborough, Ontario, called it a “frustrating loss” and goalie Shawn Sirman from Blezard Valley, Ontario, labeled it a “lucky win.

“It won’t happen again,” predicted Sirman, who watched the game at Pat’s Pizza.

“I was the only one wearing a Canadian jersey. I’m lucky I had my cousins come down. The guy downstairs got pretty upset when Canada scored. We’d get pretty happy,” said Sirman. “Miller played great. Canada needs to put [Roberto] Luongo in goal.”

Luongo will play against Germany today.

Maine assistant and long-time NHLer Bob Corkum likes the makeup of the U.S. team.

“I like the youth the U.S. team brought in,” said Corkum. “In the past, they went with older guys and they weren’t up to the speed level that they play at the international level right now. They’ve got a good mix of veterans and youth and I like their speed and tenacity on the puck.”

Swedish sophomore right wing Gustav Nyquist feels Sweden has a “great team” and said he cheered for the United States against Canada.

“Nobody likes the Canadians except themselves,” joked Nyquist.

The Maine coaching staff said the U.S. win was significant because 17 of the 23 members on the U.S. team are former college players while Canada is almost exclusively Major Junior players.

“This was good for college hockey. It helps legitimize our product,” said head coach Tim Whitehead.

“This sends a message that USA Hockey and college hockey are doing something right. Young Canadians are obsessed with Major Junior hockey but now they can see there’s another level where you can play elite hockey and do well,” said assistant Dan Kerluke, a Brampton, Ontario, native. “The United States won the last World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and the Under-20 World Championships.”

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