Erin Hamlin of the United States brakes in the finish area after her second run during the women’s singles luge competition at the 2014 Winter
Erin Hamlin of the United States brakes in the finish area after her second run during the women's singles luge competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics. AP PHOTO

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SOCHI, Russia (AP) -- David Backes realizes every U.S. Olympic hockey team inevitably ends up in the vast shadow of the 1980 Miracle on Ice squad, which stunned the Soviet Union and eventually won gold in Lake Placid.

Although the American players who held their first practice in Sochi Monday night know all about the greatest achievement in U.S. hockey history, they think it's time for some fresh heroics.

After all, this is the first U.S. Olympic hockey team featuring no player born when the Miracle occurred.

"I think the Miracle obviously is a great accomplishment for the U.S., but it was 34 years ago, and we're still living on something that happened 34 years ago," said Backes, a two-time Olympian. "As great as it was, and as awesome an accomplishment, I think the guys here would like to write our own chapter, and then we can talk about '80 and 2014."

The U.S. team doesn't have the flashy offensive talent showcased by Canada or Sweden. The Americans certainly don't have Russia's national imperative to win gold, not even after their own 34-year Olympic championship drought.

Yet captain Zach Parise and his teammates didn't exactly sneak in the side door at the Bolshoy Ice Dome for their first practice.

The Americans are a proven nightmare in international play with their combination of workmanlike play and stellar goaltending. While the hockey world focuses on Russia's collision course with defending champion Canada over the next 12 days in Sochi, the U.


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S. team is also quietly determined to reach the tournament final for the third time in the last four Olympics -- and to leave with a better result.

"They raised the standard in 2010," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "Nothing else is acceptable for us now, other than gold."