U.S. Olympic Hockey Eliminated


Brian Gionta, a former New Jersey Devil, was the Captain for the Team U.S.A. Ice Hockey Team.

By Jack Woodard, Staff Writer

The U.S. Men’s Hockey Team had a chance at winning the Olympic tournament as huge underdogs, just like they did in 1980, but their hopes were shattered in the quarterfinals against the Czech Republic.  The NHL had decided not to send the players, which hurt the U.S. and Canada, as well, so the U.S. team was composed of mostly college kids and AHL players.  The team was led by captain, Brian Gionta and looked to prove all the doubters wrong.

   The tournament did not start off as well as fans had hoped, as the U.S. blew a 2-0 third period lead against Slovenia and lost 3-2 in overtime.  The U.S. looked as if they had this game in the bag and dominated the shots column for the first two periods, but a mental lapse let Slovenia back into the game.  Jan Mursak tied the game at two for the Slovenes, and then scored the game-winning goal 38 seconds into overtime to give Slovenia the 3-2 win.  The U.S. did get a point, however, and the Olympic Athletes from Russia had lost their game as well, so hope was not lost yet.  

   The next challenge for the U.S. was a game against Slovakia.  The U.S. started fast and Ryan Donato, the college kid from Harvard, put one in the back of the net to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead seven minutes in.  The assist came from Troy Terry, another college kid, who dished out the assists throughout the Olympics.  Once again, though, the U.S. let up after gaining the lead.  25 seconds later, a tough shot from Andrej Kudrna found its way past Ryan Zapolski, who could have made the save by closing his arm to his chest a split second earlier, tying the game.  The U.S. put the pressure on the Slovaks during the second period but the game was tied 1-1 going into the third.  three minutes into the period, the U.S. scored on a power play, another goal from Ryan Donato, assisted by Chris Bourque.  As the Slovakian attack pushed harder for the equalizer, the U.S. defense clamped down and held on for the 2-1 victory, giving hope to some fans.

   The Americans’ fate was now in their own hands, heading into the last preliminary round against the Olympic Athletes From Russia, the heavy favorites with their roster full of KHL players and two former NHL players (Ilya Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk).  A win would put the U.S. in first, but Russia had something to say about that.  The Russians were coming off an 8-2 romping over Slovenia and were hungry for more.  The U.S. were outclassed early, but the defense tried to tighten up in the second and go to the third down only 2-0, but Ilya Kovalchuk scored with 0.2 seconds left to give the Russians a 3-0 advantage.  Kovalchuk then sealed the deal for the Russians scoring another goal 28 seconds into the third period.  Ryan Zapolski and the defense could not keep up with the Russians.  The final score was 4-0 and the Russians showed just why they were favorites.  The U.S. now finished last in the group and would have to play a play-in round before the quarterfinals.

   The U.S. would face off against a familiar foe, Slovakia, in the play-in round.  Ryan Donato had a two-goal game and was showing all NHL scouts why they should pick him.  The defense played well and goaltender Ryan Zapolski had an outstanding game, saving 27 of the 28 shots fired his way.  Mark Arcobello and Garrett Roe added goals for the U.S. and the Americans won in an impressive 5-1 fashion.  

   The next game was the quarterfinals and the U.S. was up against the Czech Republic who got a first-round bye.  This game was less than 24 hours from the last game against Slovakia and that could either have been good or bad.  The U.S. could either come out tired or ride the momentum.  The Czechs were the favorite, but people were not counting out the U.S. after their thrashing of Slovakia.  The Czechs had not lost a game yet and goaltender Pavel Francouz looked like the best in the tournament.  Former NHL players, Martin Erat and Jiri Sekac, were also apart of the Czech Republic team.  Ryan Donato continued his hot streak and scored 7 minutes in to give the U.S. a 1-0 lead.  Once again, the U.S. let off a little and in the second found themselves behind 2-1.  Jim Slater tied the game in the third for the U.S. on a shorthanded goal and both teams battled back and forth.  Zapolski had another great game and the U.S. offense was firing off shots against the Czechs.  The game went to overtime and the opportunity came for the U.S.. For the final 1:40 of the ten minute overtime, the U.S. had a 4-on-3 power play.  They could not capitalize.  The game went to a shootout and in the second round, Zapolski was beaten by Petr Koukal.  Ryan Zapolski played lights-out after that, stopping the rest of the shots and giving the U.S. a chance.  The fifth and final shot for the U.S. came and they needed to score to go into another round of the shootout.  The U.S. looked to win another shootout thriller just as they had done with T.J. Oshie in 2014.  Ryan Donato and Troy Terry had already given their shots as well as other, so the game came down to Bobby Butler.  Butler skated towards the puck and put it on his stick.  He took a wide turn at the blue line closing in on Francouz.  Butler then headed back to the middle and let out a quick wrist shot to try and beat Francouz.  Butler tried to go over Francouz’s right shoulder but he got the pad out sending the shot firing over the goal.  The Czech goalie rushed to the bench and the Czech team all celebrated on the ice as all the Americans could do was watch.  The shot at a miracle had come to an end, even though it was never really started.  Russia went on to win the tournament in an overtime thriller against Germany.

   The outcome was pretty much what was expected out of the U.S.  There were some good moments and an equal amount of bad ones.  Ryan Zapolski, Troy Terry, Ryan Donato, Jordan Greenway, and Brian Gionta all shined.  Fans are left imagining what could have been if the team had Patrick Kane, Auston Matthews, and Johnny Gaudreau on the ice.  The team would have also been stacked with other talents like T.J. Oshie, Max Pacioretty, Jack Eichel, and crew.  “It was definitely disappointing to watch the team without NHL players and it was kind of embarrassing for our country.  I don’t think anyone in that tournament could have beaten Russia in the playoffs.  I really hope the NHL saw what happened and sends the players next time,” said Sophomore David Smeriglio.  

   If there is one positive about the Americans’ short time at the Olympics being over, it is that fans can now switch back to their regular teams and not have to watch games at seven in the morning or eleven at night.