GANGNEUNG, South Korea — Five practices had been supposed to arrange the Americans for this, and so they knew on the second intermission that Slovenia was going to return out punching.
The preparation and the information weren’t sufficient to fend off the fatigue, because the United States blew a two-goal lead and misplaced a Three-2 stunner in overtime Wednesday night time in the Olympic opener for each groups. Slovenia captain Jan Mursak scored the tying purpose with 1:37 left in regulation and the winner 38 seconds into overtime.
Long earlier than that, the U.S. began letting the sport slip away with errors all around the ice.
“We started turning the puck over in our zone, and they were getting chances, and that led to some momentum for them,” stated goaltender Ryan Zapolski, who allowed three objectives on 25 photographs. “We can’t give up those chances that we were giving up out of nothing there in the third. That really kills your momentum. And they scored a goal off one of them, and from that point we were kind of on our heels.”
Brian O’Neill and Jordan Greenway, the latter who grew to become the primary African-American hockey participant for the U.S. at an Olympics, scored to construct the 2-Zero lead in a dominant displaying, and the photographs had been 24-12 after two intervals. Coach Tony Granato identified that Slovenia in all probability ought to have been the extra drained workforce from enjoying a lot in its defensive zone, however there was none of that from a bunch that has just one participant — Mursak — with NHL expertise.
In the sport as a result of of goalie Gasper Kroselj, who stopped 34 of 36 photographs, Slovenia got here to life when Jan Urbas scored 5:37 into the third interval. With followers chanting “SLO-VE-NI-A,” the perennial underdogs began pouring it on.
“We outskated them in the third, especially, and had more energy,” stated Mursak, who frolicked with the Detroit Red Wings. “After we scored that first goal, I think we really got that extra energy and the feeling that can score some more.”
After flashing the breakneck pace of ahead Garrett Roe on O’Neill’s purpose and the short response of Greenway on his rebound tally, the U.S. out of the blue seemed gassed. Granato puzzled whether or not 21 gamers dressing in their first Olympic recreation mixed with the hype and lengthy day earlier than a late begin took a toll on his workforce, which hadn’t performed collectively a lot.
“Our energy in the third wasn’t great,” Granato stated. “It may’ve been a bit of fatigue simply set in mentally as a result of of the best way that the day was. But no excuses. … They had been the higher workforce in the third, and it was adequate for them to get the win.
The U.S. no less than picked up some extent by attending to overtime, whereas the Russians misplaced Three-2 in regulation to Slovakia throughout city at Gangneung Hockey Centre. After every workforce’s first recreation, Slovakia is atop Group B, adopted by Slovenia, the U.S. and the Russians.
No one anticipated this type of displaying from Slovenia, which seemed overmatched in the primary two intervals and is usually identified for having a star in Los Angeles Kings captain Anze Kopitar. There was no Kopitar — that is the primary Olympics since 1994 with out NHL gamers — however nonetheless the identical pluck and no-quit angle that helped the Slovenians beat rival Slovakia in Sochi for one of the most important victories in nationwide historical past.
Slovenia added one other by upsetting the U.S. and can face the Russians subsequent.
“I am proud of my guys,” Mursak said. “I am proud of the workforce, and hopefully we will begin trying to the following recreation and shock any person else.”
The Americans did not count on to be shocked by a lot however return to the drafting board to arrange to face Slovakia on Friday.
“We’ll study from this,” O’Neill said. “We have not performed a complete lot of hockey as a workforce collectively. So it is good for us to study from that third interval.”