U.S. 'angry, hurt'

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:34 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- The U.S. will play for a medal today but it's the colour no one was expecting.

Picked by many world junior observers as the gold favourites prior to to the tournament, the Americans will get either a bronze or nothing after they play Finland today.

Coach Walt Kyle tried to put a positive spin on his club's collapse, but he knows it did not meet expectations.

"Am I disappointed in not being able to get gold or silver, are our players disappointed, is our program disappointed? Yes, (gold) is our target," Kyle said. "We hope that continues to be our target (in future years). We have a chance to play for a medal and there have been four other (U.S.) teams in 30 years that have won medals. If we are fortunate (to win bronze), in my opinion that is a solid accomplishment and I would absolutely be proud of that."

Maybe, but the Americans were true to form here to an extent. They often have players who follow beats to their own drums, and there have been stories of dislike among teammates simmering below the surface since the tournament started. Except two years ago, when the U.S. won gold in Finland, it often has underachieved at the world junior.

But this year was to be different. Phil Kessel and Rob Schremp led a talented group of forwards, while Jack Johnson and Erik Johnson anchored a solid defence corps. Although the goaltending of Cory Schneider was questioned, in the end, it's not the reason why the U.S. won't be at the top.

"There is definitely a sense of anger and hurt, because we came up short for what we came here for," Jack Johnson said. "This team on paper was as talented, if not more talented, than any other team here."

And the Americans have had to endure excessive booing since the tournament began, Bronx cheers that have bordered on vitriolic. Johnson became the main target after his elbow on Canada's Steve Downie on Saturday.

"It is to be expected," Kyle said. "People were billing us as a favourite. It was (vitriolic) a little bit. Maybe it is the political climate, but I am not smart enough to comment on that. Disappointing, a little bit."

In yesterday's play, Latvia shut out Norway 4-0 in the ninth-place game. Switzerland took seventh place on goal-differential after tying Slovakia 3-3. Sweden played the Czech Republic for fifth.


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