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Olympics / Sports

Later in Suter line takes his second shot at gold

SOCHI, Russia -- Ryan Suter was on the ice four years ago in Vancouver when Sidney Crosby scored one of the most famous goals in Canada's rich hockey history.

"Yeah," Suter said. "Thanks for reminding me."

Crosby's goal in overtime gave Canada a 3-2 victory over Team USA in the gold medal game. For the Americans, who had gained confidence throughout the tournament, second place never felt so hollow.

"I don't know what the right word is," Suter said. "You're frustrated and disappointed, but you have to move on. You can't beat yourself up over it too much. You have to keep looking forward. That was the biggest thing I learned from that last Olympics."

The 29-year-old Suter, born and raised in Madison, Wis., is back for his second try at Olympic gold. The Minnesota Wild defenseman once again is the alternate captain for Team USA in Sochi.

Suter was born into hockey royalty. His father, Bob, was a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic team that upset the mighty Soviet Union and went on to win gold. The "Miracle on Ice" has been celebrated in books and movies and still has legs 34 years later.

"It just keeps going," Bob Suter said. "It keeps on rolling. It seems like it's as important now to people as it's ever been."

Ryan's uncle Gary Suter also played on two Olympic teams and won silver in Salt Lake City in 2002.

As a young boy, Ryan Suter didn't give much thought to his father's accomplishments. But as his career progressed and he started playing on national teams and eventually made the Olympic team, he gained an appreciation for what the "Miracle" meant and still means.

"Every day," he said, "I hear more and more about the '80 team and how special it was."

Team USA opens this Olympic tournament against Slovakia on Thursday and then faces Russia on Saturday before concluding the preliminary round vs. Slovenia on Sunday.

"It's going to be a huge challenge," he said. "I'm looking forward to it. This year is so much different than the last time. We were kind of the underdogs in Vancouver, and we learned a lot at the last Olympics."

President Vladimir Putin has made it clear that he expects Russia to contend for the gold medal on its home soil. Russia hasn't won gold since 1992, when it played as the Unified Team, and four years ago got skated out of the rink in a humiliating 7-3 quarterfinal loss to Canada.

"It's always a huge factor playing against the home team," Suter said. "They have a lot of players with a lot of skill and they come at you from all different ways. They have a really good team."

Suter played one year at the University of Wisconsin and also for the Milwaukee Admirals in 2004-'05. Drafted seventh overall by Nashville in 2003, he played seven years with the Predators and then signed a 13-year, $98 million contract with the Wild.

Last year, he was a finalist for the Norris Trophy, given to the NHL's best defenseman. This year he leads the league in ice time and on Jan. 4 recorded his first career hat trick in a 5-3 victory over the Washington Capitals.

"I got some grief from my teammates," he said with a laugh. "Now they think I'm a goal scorer."

Suter's main job is not to take shots on goal but to prevent them. It will be a tall order in Sochi, where opposing rosters are sprinkled with NHL stars, and Canada (Crosby) and Russia (Alex Ovechkin) are led by perhaps the two best players in the world.

"Every game is going to be a huge challenge," he said.

Suter is Gillette's U.S. hockey ambassador for the Olympics and teamed with his father to make a video called "Keep Your Head Up" for Gillette's "Raising an Olympian" series.

"I'm proud that he's part of Team USA," Bob Suter said. "I think there's a little more pressure on them to do more than they did the last time. I think they expect to win. It would be unbelievable if they could accomplish it."

(c)2014 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

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