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It's hard for Miller to see silver lining

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Talk about cold comfort. Lindy Ruff met Ryan Miller near center ice after today's 3-2 overtime victory by Canada over the U.S. and congratulated Miller for a job well done. Miller appreciated the gesture, but ...

"[Ruff] was happy and proud of how I handled myself in the two weeks," Miller said. "It was nice that he said that, but it didn't help at the moment."

After Sidney Crosby's overtime winner, Miller — who was named the tournament's MVP — dropped to his knees and buried his head in his hands.

"I knew we lost," Miller said, "and you just feel like [crap]."

---Bucky Gleason

Gold-medal game: Pick the three stars

US-Canada For Gold

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Well, what do you know? It's the Americans and Canadians battling for the gold medal in hockey once again, this time a men's game in what many anticipate will be the most-watched event in Canadian television history.

Thousands of fans were lining up outside taverns and filling the streets by 9 a.m. Sunday for this must-see game in the 2010 Olympics. Is that a steady hum or tempered nervousness I hear inside Hockey Canada Centre? It's probably a little of both, leaning toward the latter.

Ryan Miller, also known as the star of the Olympics, has not allowed a goal in 111 minutes, 38 seconds. But he's also not playing Switzerland or Finland this time. Canada rebounded from its 5-3 loss last week that left the nation in mourning. You should expect a much better effort from the Canadians this time around with hometown hero Roberto Luongo in their net.

Patrick Kane and Brooks Orpik could join bobsledder Steve Mesler as Buffalo-area players who won gold in the Winter Games, not to mention Miller, the adopted son. On the other side, Sabres coach Lindy Ruff could take him gold if the Canadians win.

The hockey writers are running a goal pool with the jackpot going to the person who has the name of the player who scores the winning goal. My pick was Duncan Keith. A Canadian reporter wanted a Canadian player, so we made a trade. His pick: Chris Drury. Yeah, I'll take that deal. We'll split 75-25 if one of us wins the thing.

--- Bucky Gleason 

Mesler never forgot Buffalo on his golden journey

Steve Mesler has trained in Calgary for six-plus years and circled the globe racing in the World Cup circuit, but he's Buffalo to the bone.

He knows Wide Right wasn't a missed kick but a kick in the communal stomach. He's a humble guy from a humble family, the son of teachers who was raised on Potomac Avenue.

And as he jumped into USA-1 on Saturday night at Whistler Sliding Centre and lowered his head for the ride of his life, he thought about everyone back home while driver Steven Holcomb flawlessly steered through the turns with the gold medal on the line.

“Those are the things I had in my head," Mesler said. "I absorbed those more than I ever had going down a bobsled track. Those were the thoughts going through my head. It was for my parents who had done everything … everything … for 31 years of my life.

"It was for a city that is so proud of people who come from there. I hope that Buffalo is proud. I can't wait to get back there. I can't wait to share it with the entire community, not just Buffalo but the entire region."

---Bucky Gleason

Americans a win away from Golden moment

The Americans were asked this question several times Friday after blowing out Finland, 6-1, in the men's hockey semifinals: Who would you rather play for the gold, Canada or Slovakia.

Canada appeared to be the tougher opponent going into its game against the Slovaks later this evening. In terms of winning gold, common sense suggests they would want to play Slovakia. In terms of pure satisfaction, they would rather beat Canada on their own turf.

"From the fans' standpoint, everybody wants to see U.S.-Canada," South Buffalo native Patrick Kane said. "If I was a fan, I would want to see the same thing. When you're in the games, when you're playing, it doesn't really matter. It's just going to be fun to be part of that game and give ourselves a chance to win no matter who we play."

The game today was almost over before it started, thanks to Miikka Kiprusoff gift-wrapping the first goal for Ryan Malone with a terrible giveaway. Kane finished with two goals. He also finished Kiprusoff with a backhander that made it 4-0 midway through the first period.

I asked Ryan Miller what it was like to watch his team score three quick goals … bang, bang, bang … and he had a classic response:

"You forgot a few bangs," he said.

Kane had two goals after struggling in his previous two games. Zach Parise, Erik Johnson and Paul Stastny also scored for the Americans. They haven't won the gold medal since 1980. The only other time they won was in 1960.

"It would be unbelievable," Kane said. "I never really won anything big in my life, honestly, under-18 world championships and stuff like that, but nothing like a Stanley Cup or gold medal or world junior. It would be an awesome feeling. You get one chance every four years. To do it this year in my first opportunity would be unbelievable, very special."

Kane has become friends with actor Vince Vaughn, a Blackhawks fan from Chicago who attended Kane's 21st birthday party in November. Vaughn attended the game Friday. By the way, actor Donald Sutherland was in the house Thursday for the U.S.-Canada women's final.

"It's funny seeing the guys from "Around the Horn', that ESPN show," Kane said. "They don't ever talk hockey on that show, and they're here asking questions. I'm like, "What the hell is going on here?'

"You see how important we are getting for this country. It's the 50th anniversary of the '60 team and 30th of the '80 team. Hopefully, that means something and we can bring the same feeling back to the country."

--- Bucky Gleason

Canada beats U.S. women for gold

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- International Olympic Committee chief Jacques Rogge made it clear Thursday that competitiveness in women's hockey needs to improve if it's going to continue being part of the Winter Games.

You want competitive? Watch the two best teams in the world play against one another. Canada beat the United States, 2-0, in a battle of women's hockey giants before a packed house in Hockey Canada Place. It was as competitive as any game in recent memory.

Rogge's beef, of course, is that the United States, Canada, Sweden and Finland are the only teams that have a chance of winning a medal. It's been the case for years, and it didn't change Thursday with Canada winning the gold over the U.S. and Finland beating Sweden for the bronze. More than anything, though, the women's game needs more time to develop around the world.

The superpowers need to do a better job developing teams in other lands if they want to save the game as an Olympic sport. It took years for men's hockey to take hold, but now it's considered the main event among the team sports. Women have been playing in the Olympics since 1998

The U.S. won the first gold while Canada took the next three. Give the sport another 10 or 12 years, and allow girls watching on television to fall in love with the sport, and other teams will catch up.

--- Bucky Gleason


U.S.-Canada women meet for gold in hockey

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- It's the United States against Canada for hockey gold, this time in the women's game starting at 6:30 p.m. EST. They have built an intense rivalry since women's hockey was added to the Olympics in the 1998 Nagano Games.

The Americans won the first gold. Canada was looking for its third straight. Keep an eye out for Meghan Agosta for Canada. She was playing for Mercyhurst College before taking this year off to get ready for the Olympics. She leads all players with nine goals and 14 points. Her college coach is Buffalo native Mike Sisti, who has taken Mercyhurst to a No. 1 ranking.

Another local angle is Yanks backup goalie Molly Schaus. Her parents were born and raised in Buffalo and left the area six months before Molly was born. Apparently, you can take them out of Buffalo, but you can't take Buffalo out of them.

Dave and Cathy Schaus prepared for the women's gold medal game in Buffalo-style fashion, which was getting riled up in a Vancouver bar with closest friends and family. They were celebrating with about 10 people from Western New York who wore USA jersey's with Molly's No. 1 on the back.

Molly is not expected to play despite being the only USA goalie who has not allowed a goal. OK, in fairness, she only faced five shots in 52 minutes played. Jessie Vetter has received the bulk of action, allowing only one goal in three games.

The Americans outscored their opponents 40-2 in the four games while Canada had a 46-2 advantage in goals en route to the gold-medal game. No wonder the women's game was under so much scrutiny during the Olympics. It hasn't been competitive.

This game is certain to test that theory.

--- Bucky Gleason

Now it gets interesting

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Ryan Miller played another good game and earned the shutout in the United States' 2-0 victory over Switzerland, but he was hardly the biggest reason they won.

The Americans played solid defense and spent much of the afternoon in the Swiss zone before breaking through against stubborn goalie Jonas Hiller. They're headed for the semifinals Friday night and appear to have the easiest road to the gold-medal game Sunday.

Team USA remains undefeated, but they weren't overly excited after the game. One reason is that they know they can play better. Brian Burke said as much as day after they beat Canada, and he was right, Miller carried them against the Canadians.

Are we headed for another U.S.-Canada final, this time on Canadian soil? It sure looks that way.

--- Bucky Gleason

Live Chat: Gleason at the Games

DePeters lands jumps, falls short of finals

WEST VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Matt DePeters landed both of his jumps in men's aerials Monday, but it wasn't enough for him to reach the finals. The result didn't matter nearly as much as the joy of competing in the 2010 Winter Olympics.

DePeters finished 17th after completing the lay-full--full (a flip followed by two more flips with twists) and the full-full-full (three flips with twists). The top 12 make the finals, which will be held Thursday on Cypress Mountain. He was all smiles afterward.

"I'll definitely be back in four years to put down two more good jumps," he said. "This is a gold medal for me."

DePeters had quite a ride just to participate in Vancouver. He was a long shot to make the U.S. team but did everything possible to give himself a chance. He expects to spend the next four years training for the Winter Games in Russia, where he plans to contend.

Learn more about him in my column Tuesday in the Buffalo News.

--- Bucky Gleason

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