SOCHI, Russia, Feb. 14 (UPI) -- After the United States cruised to a relatively easy 7-1 victory over Slovakia and Russia defeated Slovenia 3-1 on Thursday, the teams will face off in one of the most highly-anticipated games in the Olympic men’s ice hockey tournament on Saturday in Sochi.
The Russian team is stocked with powerful players like Alex Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk and Evgeni Malkin, but the American team has some firepower of its own with scorers like Phil Kessel and Zach Parise in addition to a superb goaltender in Jonathan Quick.
“In the case of the Americans, it will be a good test for us. And we of course understand how strong the American team is,” Malkin said. “If we go out united in a good mood, then we have a every chance of winning.”
The United States defeated Russia during the “Miracle on Ice” 34 years ago to win gold during the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. The U.S. narrowly missed out on gold at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and settled for silver after losing to Canada in overtime.
The pressure is squarely on the shoulders of the Russian players as President Vladimir Putin has made it clear that winning the gold medal in men’s ice hockey is a top priority.
“The Americans taught us a good lesson in 1980 -- you have to respect your competitors before the match and afterwards you can say how they represented, said Russian Ice Hockey Federation president Vladislav Tretiak. “We didn’t have the respect for them, and that’s why we lost. There aren’t any weak competitors in the Olympics.”
The game will be played on Saturday at 7:30 a.m. EST.