U.S. men’s hockey’s medal hopes implode in shootout
Gangneung, South Korea — This time it was Troy Terry instead of T.J. Oshie and Ryan Zapolski instead of Jonathan Quick.
In this Olympic shootout, though, the United States fell short.
Playing in an elimination game without NHL stars, the U.S. was ousted from the Olympics with a 3-2 overtime loss to the Czech Republic on Wednesday. Little-known Czech goaltender Pavel Francouz did his best impression of legendary countryman Dominik Hasek by stopping Chris Bourque, Ryan Donato, Marc Arcobello, Terry and Bobby Butler in the shootout, sending the Czechs on to the semifinals on Friday — and sending the Americans home.
“It’s tough,” said Donato, who scored his fifth goal to lead the Olympics but just missed in the shootout. “It always comes down to the smallest plays and I think at the end of the day you’ve got to be able to capitalize on those plays to win a game. Obviously it didn’t go the way I wanted it to and we wanted it to, but it comes down to those things.”
Petr Koukal scored the winner, the only player to score on U.S. goaltender Ryan Zapolski in the shootout.
“It’s tough to kind of go that way I think to end an Olympic tournament,” said Zapolski, who made 27 saves on 29 shots in regulation and overtime. “For it to end in a shootout, it’s difficult.”
Jan Kovar and Tomas Kundratek scored in regulation for the Czech Republic, which was fresher after winning its group and getting a bye into the quarterfinals and got 18 saves in regulation and overtime from Francouz. The U.S. looked fatigued after facing Slovakia in the qualification round a day earlier and was outshot 29-20.
Donato and Jim Slater, a Lapeer native and former Michigan State standout, scored in regulation for the U.S, which again was led by its youngest players, including Terry.
Just before the shootout, Oshie — who converted four of six shots in a legendary shootout win over Russia four years ago in Sochi — tweeted his support for Terry, but Francouz was able to save a multiple-fake try by the University of Denver player.
“Sorry to let him down on that on,” Terry said, adding that Francouz’s use of the glove on his right hand — uncommon in hockey —didn’t let him use his usual move. “But the goalie made a good save.”
In regulation, Terry skated around opponents as he had done all tournament, and 6:20 in gave the U.S. a 1-0 lead. Terry sliced down the left wing and dished it to Donato, who used a double Czech Republic screen to beat Francouz.
“He’s always been someone that can raise his game in the big games,” Chuck Terry, Troy’s father, said. “That part’s not that surprising. Just the overwhelming thing of him being at the Olympics, it’s pretty cool.”
The goal was Donato’s fifth in five games, passing his father and Harvard coach, Ted, who scored four for the U.S. at the 1992 Olympics in Albertville.
The Czechs tied it at 1 at 15:12 after 39-year-old U.S. captain — and natural winger — Brian Gionta lost the faceoff clean. Jan Kolar got it back to Kovar, who beat Zapolski from long range with a screen — the kind of goal that has been common at this tournament.
A parade to the penalty box by the U.S. beginning with a boarding call on John McCarthy at the end of the first made the opening half the second a one-sided game. On the power play and at even strength, the Czechs tilted the ice on the Americans and hemmed them in the zone, scoring a predictable goal from Kundratek at 8:14 to go up 2-1.
Just over two minutes later with the U.S. on another penalty kill and looking in serious trouble, Brian O’Neill flashed his speed once again and found Slater on the rush for the former Atlanta Thrashers forward’s first goal of the tournament. The short-handed tying goal at 10:23 was the Americans’ first shot of the second period.
The teams traded chances in the third period and O’Neill clanked a shot off the crossbar with just under three minutes left on an odd-man rush. The U.S. got a power play at the end of regulation and into overtime but never got a shot on net.
With 35 seconds left in overtime, U.S. defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti’s shot hit Francouz and sat in the crease, but the goalie was able to cover up.
“We couldn’t get the bounces,” Donato said.
The Czechs move on to face either the Russians or Norway.