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Road to World Cup

Team USA looking for repeat of 1996 championship

Americans' international competition history dates back to 1920 @NHL

World Cup history (1996-present): Finished first place in 1996, fourth in 2004

Canada Cup history (1976-91): Finished fifth in 1976, fourth in 1981, fourth in 1984, fifth in 1987, second in 1991

World Championship history (2012-16): Finished seventh in 2012, third in 2013, sixth in 2014, third in 2015, fourth in 2016.

Olympic history (since 1998): Tied for fifth in 1998, second in 2002, eighth in 2006, second in 2010, fourth in 2014

Olympic medal history (overall): Gold 2, silver 8, bronze 1

The United States played internationally for the first time at the 1920 Antwerp Olympics, winning a silver medal. It won silver again at the 1924 Chamonix Olympics and the 1932 Lake Placid Olympics, coming up short against Canada each time, and won the bronze medal in 1936. It also won the gold medal at the 1933 World Championship. 
The United States was disqualified at the 1948 St. Moritz Olympics, the first one held after World War II, because of a controversy about the amateur status of some of its athletes, but won silver medals at the 1952 Oslo Olympics and the 1956 Cortina d'Ampezzo Olympics.

The United States won the gold medal for the first time at the 1960 Squaw Valley Olympics, winning all seven games it played. The U.S. went 5-0-0 in the medal round, including a 2-1 victory against Canada on Feb. 25 and a 3-2 victory against the Soviet Union two days later. A six-goal third period in a 9-4 win against Czechoslovakia on Feb. 28 completed the run to the gold medal. Jack McCartan, a standout at the University of Minnesota who had joined the Olympic team while in the U.S. Army, was named the tournament's best goaltender after going 5-0-0 and allowing 11 goals. McCartan's performance earned him a chance to play for the New York Rangers after the Olympics.

But the next 20 years were tough for U.S. hockey. The only high points were a bronze medal at the 1962 World Championship and a silver medal at the 1972 Sapporo Olympics.

That all changed at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics.

Herb Brooks, a successful college coach at Minnesota, took a team of college and amateur players that had never played together and shocked the world by winning the gold medal. The U.S. stunned the powerful Soviet Union by rallying for a 4-3 victory in the first of its medal-round games. Team captain Mike Eruzione scored the winning goal midway through the third period and goaltender Jim Craig held off the Soviets the rest of the way. Two days later, the U.S. again rallied in the third period, defeating Finland 4-2 to win the gold medal.

In 1998, the NHL allowed all of its players to take part in the Olympics for the first time, but the United States finished sixth with a team led by future Hockey Hall of Famers Brett Hull, Mike Modano and Brian Leetch. The U.S. didn't win another medal until 2002, when it won silver after losing to Canada in the championship game at Salt Lake City. The scenario repeated itself at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, when the U.S. took home silver after losing to Canada in overtime.

Aside from the two Olympic gold medals, the United States' best moment came at the inaugural World Cup of Hockey in 1996. The U.S. lost the first game in the best-of-3 final against Canada, but won Games 2 and 3 in Montreal. Hull led the U.S. with 11 points and Tony Amonte scored the tournament-winning goal late in the third period.

Since 2010, the U.S. has been limited to bronze medals at the 2013 and 2015 World Championships. It was fourth in the 2004 World Cup, losing to Finland in the semifinals. The United States should be a medal contender this year, but won't be considered a favorite.

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