CALGARY, Canada — If form holds the rest of the way in Olympic hockey play, the United States team may be kept from advancing to the medal round because of a 175-foot, empty-net goal scored by Czechoslovakia's Dusan Pasek.
The Soviets are expected to finish first in the 'B' pool of the tournament. Assuming the Czechs and West Germans both lose to the Soviet Union, and Team USA beats the West Germans, all three teams will be tied with two losses in the 'B' pool. To determine which two teams will advance to the medal round along with the Soviets, the tiebreaker will count the goal differential in head-to-head competition between the Czechs, West Germans and the United States.
The Czechs are plus-1, having lost to West Germany, 2-1, while beating Team USA, 7-5. Team USA is minus-2 and West Germany plus-1 going into their game Sunday night. So, in order for Team USA to advance, it would have to win by at least two goals.
That brings us back to Pasek, whose shot from the faceoff circle from the opposite end of the ice went into the net with nine seconds remaining in the Czechs' win over Team USA Monday. Subtract that goal, and Team USA would only have to beat the West Germans by one on Sunday.
"That's a big play right now," said Team USA Coach Dave Peterson on the eve of the Soviet game. "The guy didn't even look.
"That's why you don't see Europeans pull a goalie. But in our mentality, it means we're not trying."
Ken Dryden, the Hall of Fame goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens and commentator for ABC-TV, predicts that whether the Soviet Union wins a gold medal in hockey or not, Viktor Tikhonov will not return as coach.
"Tikhonov is a victim of glasnost, " Dryden said, referring to the Soviet policy of openness. "He sort of represents the old way, and the old way is under attack."
Team USA Coach Dave Peterson, rankled by criticism of his team's defense, asked why reporters weren't questioning Team Canada's inability to score goals. Canada, which was shut out in its two medal-round games in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia, beat Poland, 1-0, and Switzerland, 4-2.
"They haven't exactly blown Switzerland and Poland out of the rink," Peterson said. "Instead of asking about our defense, why doesn't someone ask (Coach) Dave King why he doesn't have anyone on offense?"
Add Peterson: He said that if he could keep his team together, "we'd win a gold medal the next time around."
There's no chance of that happening, of course. National Hockey League teams own the rights to 21 Team USA players. Scott Fusco, who played in Switzerland last season, and Jim Johannson, who played in West Germany, are the team's only free agents.
"I think we need a standing national team," Peterson said, "and I don't mean with players staying through every year of eligibility. But that's just my personal opinion."
Without such continuity, Peterson said, Team USA will be handicapped by its inexperience in playing the more disciplined, defensive style of international hockey.
High winds at Canada Olympic Park, site of the ski jumps and the luge-bobsled run, caused two postponements. Delayed until today were the final two runs of the women's luge competition and the entire team ski jumping event off the 90-meter slide.
Marty Hall's suggestion the other day that Soviet cross-country skiers might have been guilty of blood doping has drawn predictable reactions. Hall is the American coach of the Canadian cross-country team.
Hall really didn't make any accusations but said it would be logical to think that Soviet domination, in both men's and women's competition, might be related to the practice. Blood doping--blood is taken from an athlete, stored, then re-infused into the athlete shortly before competition--provides athletes with reserves of oxygen.
Both Soviet and Canadian spokesmen condemned Hall's innuendo.
Said Vitaly Smirnov, a Soviet member of the International Olympic Committee's executive board: "Of course we're upset by this. It's not fair to make such statements.
"All the athletes were checked for blood transfusions, including the medalists, and there were no marks found."
Added Roger Jackson, president of the Canadian Olympic Assn.: "He made an accusation he has absolutely no ability to back up. . . . We in the Canadian Olympic Assn. completely disassociate ourselves from those remarks."
The folks who named the geographical features here way back when must have had a puckish sense of humor. Two major rivers flow through town. One is the Bow. The other is the Elbow.
Is it possible that Calgarians are already tiring of the Winter Games?
One Calgary newspaper had a story Wednesday on the Closing Ceremony, which is still more than a week away.
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld told talk-show host David Letterman that he's been watching ABC-TV's Jim McKay host the Winter Olympics for so long, he has come to the conclusion that there's been more than one McKay.
"You know how there have been something like nine Lassies over the last 30 years?" Seinfeld asked. "I think ABC's had at least nine Jim McKays. They keep going out and getting look-a-likes."
Seinfeld said he also doesn't understand the concept of the biathlon event.
"Skiing and shooting a rifle?" Seinfeld asked. "Next Olympics it'll be, like, go swimming and then strangle somebody."
Times Assistant Sports Editor Mike Kupper and staff writer Randy Harvey contributed to this story.