A recap of the Pyeongchang men’s and women’s hockey tournaments, with a focus on Team USA’s gold medal quests.
1. Genevieve Lacasse, Canada
This time, it wasn’t Shannon Szabados baffling the U.S. in its showdown with arch rival Canada. It was Lacasse, stopping 44 of 45 shots in as Team Canada defeated the Americans 2-1 in a typically-spirited preliminary battle between the two women’s hockey superpowers. Canada now has three goalies that can get the job done in these games, as Szabados had 22 saves in a 4-1 win over Finland and Ann-Renee Desbiens had an 18-save shutout against the Olympic Athletes from Russia. Scary.
2. Linus Omark, Sweden
These Olympics are made for stellar, “remember me?” performances from former NHL players. Omark, who parlayed his YouTube fame as a shootout specialist into a 79-game career with the Edmonton Oilers and Buffalo Sabres, had three assists in Sweden’s convincing 4-0 win over Norway. That included the primary helpers on goals by Dennis Everberg and Mikeal Wikstrand that were scored 1:22 apart in the third period to blow the game open.
3. Wojtek Wolski, Canada
Truth be told, Rene Bourque had a greater offensive impact in Canada’s 5-1 win over the Swiss in the tournament opener for both teams. But how can you not give a star to Wolski, the Canadian forward who scored two goals (one at even strength, one into an empty net) 16 months after breaking his neck, having made a miraculous comeback to become an Olympian?
Wojtek Wolski scores in the Olympics 16 months after breaking his neck pic.twitter.com/SrVJ4yM7tT
– Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) February 15, 2018
Men’s Group C: Finland 5, Germany 2; Sweden 4, Norway 0
Women’s Group A: Canada 2, USA 1; Finland 5, OAR 1
Men’s Group A: Czech Republic 2, Korea 1; Canada 5, Switzerland 1
The women’s quarterfinals are now set. Canada faces the winner of OAR and Switzerland, while Team USA plays the winner of Sweden and Finland.
What’s up with the U.S. men’s team?
Team USA was embarrassed by Slovenia in its tournament opener, losing 3-2 in overtime and getting outplayed for the last 20 minutes by a significant margin. Energy management was the topic of conversation in the postmortem, as it was clear the Americans left it all on the ice at the start and the tank hit “E” by the third period.
“I thought our energy in the third wasn’t great,” coach Tony Granato said. “Twenty-four guys playing their first Olympic game — the hype, the long day — you use a lot of energy. It could’ve been a little fatigue set in mentally because of the way that the day was. But no excuses. They were the better team in the third.”
Slovakia is next, in a game that starts at 10:10 p.m. ET on Thursday. Slovakia pulled off an upset of its own in the first game, stunning tournament favorite OAR 3-2. (A victory that took some of the sting out of the Americans’ loss from a group-standings perspective.)
Granato said his players have to forget about Slovenia, ASAP.
“If you drag this one out then … you’re not going to be ready to play in a couple of days. This one’s over and done with and we need to start looking forward to the next game,” he said.
What’s up with the U.S. women’s team?
The Americans can’t be happy with the result against Canada, but can be somewhat pleased with the effort — and the room for improvement. “At the end of the day, we just gotta get one more. This team is ready for a breakout. And when we do, I wouldn’t want to be on the other end of it,” said U.S. coach Robb Stauber.
One player who needs a breakout: Star Hilary Knight, who has been uncharacteristically quiet so far through three preliminary games. She had one assist against Finland, on the power play, and was stopped on a breakaway by Lacasse in the loss to Canada.
Yeah, it’s been pretty much like this for her:
No paparazzi, please pic.twitter.com/YJkLqliuEq
– Hannah Bevis (@Hannah_Bevis1) February 15, 2018
The loss to the Canadian hurt more than the Americans’ pride: They’re now bracketed to play the winner of Sweden and Finland on Monday, which likely means another battle with Noora Raty of Finland, a goalie capable of pulling an upset on her own.
The scratch heard ’round the world
Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin is going to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft this June. He only 17 but is already a game-changing offensive force.
Rasmus Dahlin was something else in Sweden’s opening-round win over Norway: a healthy scratch.
The Swedes have done this before with young defensemen — please recall the bizarre decision to dress Oliver Ekman-Larsson for their semifinal game in Sochi and then not actually give the then-22-year-old Arizona Coyotes defenseman a shift in the game.
The expectation is that Dahlin will play for Sweden in its Friday game against Germany, after defenseman Patrik Hersley was injured by a shot in the Norway game, playing just 3:26. Let’s hope so — watching this wunderkind is one of the reasons we were tuning in for a non-NHL Olympics.
In the next 24 hours
Men’s tournament Group B: United States vs. Slovakia (Feb. 15, 10:10 p.m. ET); OAR vs. Slovenia (Feb. 16, 2:40 a.m. ET)
Men’s tournament Group C: Finland vs. Norway (Feb. 16, 7:10 a.m. ET); Sweden vs. Germany (Feb. 16, 7:10 a.m.)