By Steve Keating
SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - For the United States men's ice hockey team the Sochi Winter Games mission was a simple one - win gold.
But their 'go big, or go home' philosophy will once again see the Americans return to the United States empty-handed after a lackluster 5-0 effort against Finland in Saturday's bronze medal game.
For the smiling Finns, all that glitters is not necessarily just Olympic gold, a bronze proving to be a more than adequate consolation prize.
Finland's ice hockey players have never stepped to the top of the podium yet they have been one of the most productive nations, claiming six medals (four bronze, two silvers), from the last eighth Olympics.
The Americans, meanwhile, have collected just two silver medals since taking gold at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics 'Miracle on Ice'.
"It is their culture (gold or nothing) but we are not feeling sorry for them," said Jussi Jokinen, who contributed a goal to the Finns bronze medal effort.
"Whether you are fourth or get to take a medal home there is a huge difference. I am sure they are not feeling too good right now.
"A bronze medal has always been big in our country and anytime we can get a medal in Olympics you don't have those chances so often. Getting a medal in an Olympics is huge."
American hockey fans may not lose any sleep over the loss but the players were disappointed.
"By no means is it an accomplishment for USA Hockey to come in fourth," said American defenseman Cam Fowler.
"It's very disappointing, we thought we had a group that could come in here and contend for a gold medal and we're going home empty handed."
With just 24 hours between games, the Americans were still trying to regroup from their heart-breaking semi-final loss to Canada that ended their hopes of gold.
Finland also had to deal with the disappointment of losing their semi-final to rivals Sweden but were quickly refocused on the bronze medal challenge ahead.
"It was pretty demoralizing last night and you have to turn around, regroup and understand there is still a medal on the line which is still a big deal," said U.S. captain Zach Parise.
"Then to turn-around and have back-to-back not great efforts, it's just unacceptable at this point of the tournament."
(Editing by Julian Linden)
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