They came early, they came often, and they were decisive. 13 minutes into their semifinal game with Finland, it became obvious that the United States men's hockey team had earned the right to play for a gold medal.
In those 13 minutes, the Americans left the Finns shell shocked, scoring six goals before they knew what had even him them. They beat Finland in every part of the game. They hit harder, skated faster, were opportunistic in their plethora of opportunities and they completely controlled a game that many expected to be close.
Miikka Kiprusoff didn't help his team out either. He bungled the first American goal, coming way out of his net to play a loose puck and then putting it right on the tape of Ryan Malone, who easily fired it into the open net. It was all down hill from there for Kipper, who would be pulled after the fourth USA goal just 10:08 into the first period.
US coach Ron Wilson decided to give backup goaltender Tim Thomas some playing time toward the end of the third period, replacing Ryan Miller with him for the last 11:31 seconds of a 6-0 game. Antti Miettinen would ruin the shutout with about five minutes left in the game, but by then it hadn't mattered for quite some time. The USA knew they would be playing for gold right from the start and they played like it all the way through.
They'll have the honor of playing the winner of tonight's Canada vs Slovakia semifinal. Puck drops on that one at 9:30 PM ET. Finland will play in the bronze medal game on Saturday night against the loser of the other semifinal. The gold medal game is the last event of these Olympics and will take place on Sunday afternoon at 3:15 PM ET / 12:15 PM PT.