Russian gold-medal favorites lose opening game to Slovakia

Jan Mursak scored the tying goal in the final minutes of regulation and the victor in overtime as Slovenia came back to stun the United States 3-2 Wednesday night at Kwandong Hockey Centre in each team's Olympic opener. The Canton, New York-native amassed three goals and five assists in seven games for the US team, which went on to win the gold medal.

Every team advances to the knockout stage, but Team USA is in danger of a hard first game in the knockout round if it can't right the ship after Wednesday's loss. The Americans are also using four college players (Jordan Greenway, Ryan Donato, Troy Terry and Will Borgen), three American Hockey League players (Chris Bourque, Bobby Butler and John McCarthy) and five players from the Kontinental Hockey League (Brian O'Neill, Ryan Stoa, Matt Gilroy, Jonathon Blum and Ryan Zapolski). Forward Garrett Roe flew down the left wing and dished the puck to a waiting O'Neill to give the USA a 1-0 lead 17:44 in. But in the end, Slovenia's lone player with National Hockey League experience, captain Jan Mursak, demonstrated his experience and took advantage of a young USA squad. With under two minutes left in the third, Slovenia pulled its goalie, Gasper Kroselj, and Mursak scored to tie the game at 2. The U.S.is set to open it's play in the Preliminary Round on Wednesday, February 14th against Slovenia.

Ah, it's the main event! After a scoreless second, the Slovaks jumped all over the OAR's sloppy play before 25-year-old, Peterborough Petes alumnus Peter Ceresnak collected the victor on a powerplay off yet another second delay-of-game penalty from the Russians. Both teams enter the match 2-0, with wins over Finland and the Olympic Athletes from Russian Federation. It usually doesn't get much tougher than being captain of such a storied franchise as Montreal.

It's no surprise that Canada is an overwhelming favourite in this one - and they have the puckline edge, as well, sitting at -1.5 -155.

Monique Lamoureux Morando of the U.S. in action Thursday Feb. 15 2018 against Marie Philip Poulin of Canada. David W Cerny  Reuters
Monique Lamoureux Morando of the U.S. in action Thursday Feb. 15 2018 against Marie Philip Poulin of Canada. David W Cerny Reuters

To choke or not to choke - that is the Russian question as the Olympic hockey tournament begins. Last week, I asked John for a scouting report on his brother. He goes to the net. "So he's more like a power forward, doing a good job with the forecheck and stuff like that".

The NHL's return on its investment has been mixed: In 2002 (Salt Lake City) and 2010 (Vancouver, British Columbia), they hit their jackpot, a USA-Canada final; in 2006 (Turin), they ended up with Sweden-Finland; and in 1998 (Nagano, Japan) not only did the Czech Republic-Russia gold medal game start at 10:45 p.m.

"The way I look at it is, after Russian Federation it's a crapshoot".

A shout-out to New Jersey Devils defenseman Mirco Mueller for calling it like it is on Twitter. "But I think what the 1980 team... what they did for us is, it gave us our confidence, our sense of pride and our style of play". Switzerland prevailed from group B and will face the fourth-place Group A team in the quarterfinals. "We just didn't find a way to finish the game". Did we mention that she's only 19 years old?

Vanessa Coleman

Comments