Team USA men’s hockey opened Olympic play Wednesday in PyeongChang against Slovenia.
All was well — until it wasn’t.
Brian O’Neill put the United States up 1-0 in the first period. Jordan Greenway scored to help the U.S. take a two-goal lead more than halfway through the second period. It seemed the Americans were cruising to victory.
However, Slovenia stunned Team USA, scoring three unanswered goals and defeating the Americans 3-2 with a game-winning goal just 38 seconds into 3-on-3 overtime. The U.S. conceded the game-tying goal with less than 90 seconds remaining in the third period.
Team USA now finds itself in a bit of a hole after losing to an opponent it probably should have defeated. The U.S. now has two more games in preliminary round play — against Slovakia and the Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) — before either moving on to elimination rounds or playing in the consolation rounds.
The overtime loss may not be the end of the world for the teams hopes at winning a medal in PyeongChang. USA actually played very well for most of the game, outshooting Slovenia 36 to 25 while young talent such as Greenway, Ryan Donato and Troy Terry all played exceptionally well on the big stage of their first Olympic game.
Terry, the Colorado native, skated on the second line with another college phenom, Ryan Donato, and Mark Arcobello who plays for SC Bern in Switzerland. About 10 seconds into their first shift of the game Terry set up a wide open Donato in the slot, but a bouncing puck hopped over his stick and denied the great opportunity. Great chances like this occurred throughout the night for this line as they generated seven shots, many of which were solid opportunities although none resulted in points.
Although Terry did not get on the point sheet, he had two shoots on net, a zero plus-minus rating, and 17:32 total time on ice — the third most for a forward behind line mates Donato and Arcobello. Terry and his line mates were arguably the strongest line for the U.S. throughout the game and a few breaks away from having a great night.
With the next game on Feb. 16 against Slovakia, the team will have a short break to figure each other out more and mesh. Look for Terry and the second line to come out even stronger in the second game and hopefully turn their great chances into a few goals.
The U.S. currently sits in third place in Group B with one point to their name. Ahead of them is Slovenia in second place with two points and Slovakia in first with three points. Slovakia upset the OAR in a back-and-forth battle on Wednesday. OAR might be one of the more talented teams in this years Olympics, but they currently sit in last place with zero points after their disappointing loss.
If the U.S. can bounce back and take care of Slovakia in regulation like many people think they should be able to, it will set up for a U.S. versus OAR battle in the final preliminary round game to decide which team will move on to the elimination rounds. This is assuming OAR takes care of business themselves against a Slovenia team who is riding high after their upset against of the U.S.
The intense Olympic history between the U.S. and Russia is no secret. This could set up to be and instant classic and be one of the more entertaining games of round-robin play.
For now, all the U.S. must focus on Slovakia and make sure they secure a win or else they can kiss their chances of a medal goodbye. With hungry young talent like Terry and his line seemingly ready to break out, look for Team USA to just keep getting better.