Published: Thu, February 15, 2018
Sport | By Cameron Gross

Team USA falls to Slovenia in Olympic hockey opener

Team USA falls to Slovenia in Olympic hockey opener

The other Group B matchup also went the way of the underdog, as Slovakia also overcame a 2-0 deficit to knock off the Olympic Athletes of Russian Federation by the same 3-2 count.

The Slovenians next face the Olympic Athletes from Russian Federation, who lost to Slovakia 3-2 on Wednesday. In each case, a two-goal lead crumbled.

While Slovenia had just three shots on goal in the first period, a bad giveaway by Noah Welch forced USA goalie Ryan Zapolski into a compromising position.

"We hit a lot of posts, we had a lot of chances and we're not going to worry about the scoreboard", USA coach Robb Stauber said. "It's an exciting time for them and their families".

The Olympic hockey tournament is being played without NHL players for the first time since the Lillehammer Games in 1994 after the league and International Olympic Committee failed to agree on players' travel and insurance costs.

Coming off a 4-1 win over Sweden in their final Olympic tune-up on Sunday, Canada carried that momentum into Thursday's first period with a pair of goals at the Kwandong Hockey Centre. Something tells us Alex Ovechkin is still a little bitter about that.

Slovakia recorded only four shots in the first period, but scored on two of them just before the intermission.

"[Former USA Hockey general manager] Jim [Johannson] said it best: "Of the 25 [guys] out there, there's 24 of them that have never worn an Olympic shirt before, '" said Granato, now on a 3-week sabbatical from the Badgers" bench to run the show in South Korea at the invitation of Johannson, an ex-Wisconsin teammate who passed away last month at the age of 53. Of the 60, 19 are Slovenian.

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After a scoreless second period, Slovakia took advantage of sloppy play by from the Olympic Athletes from Russian Federation in the third as Ceresnak collected the victor on a powerplay off a second delay of game penalty.

Gionta has played for the New Jersey Devils and was on the team in 2003 when it won the Stanley Cup.

But Boston College has one more connection to add to its Olympic ice hockey cap: The captain of the men's team, Brian Gionta, graduated from Boston College and was the school's men's hockey captain in 2001. And it's the first time since 1956 that no player on Team Canada had any Olympic experience. The U.S. will have to rebound quickly; its next game is on February 16 against Slovakia - a team coming off a big opening win against the Russians. Coach Tony Granato chalked it up to some mental fatigue. Ever since I was good enough to play on Men's National Team, whenever they ask me I play.

These teams obviously know each other well by now, so what kind of game should we expect Wednesday in what looks like another gold-medal preview? "It's so impressive how from last year with all the pressure around him and he took a big step this year and now he's here in the Olympics at 17 years old".

Group B is suddenly in a state of upheaval.

In overtime, the teams skated three-on-three. This game could prove to be a spark for one side to gain some momentum before the knockout stage. Given the starts in the preliminaries, Rooney is likely going to get the nod in the semifinal match, and Team USA will no doubt need her to be sharp in the elimination rounds.

The danger isn't real and there's no reason to panic - yet. Seeding is on the line, and one or both are still expected to earn a bye.

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