Winter Olympics 2018: USA men's hockey knocked out in shootout loss to Czechs
The American men will head home from Pyeongchang without a medal after losing a heartbreaker
For the second consecutive Winter Olympics, the United States' men's hockey team has failed to medal. Team USA's run came to an end on Tuesday night in Pyeongchang after an intense 3-2 shootout loss to the Czech Republic in the quarterfinal round. It was a hard-fought game that ultimately was separated by a single shootout tally, but the Americans wound up on the wrong side of that tight battle.
The Americans will likely dwell on some of the missed opportunities that could have swayed this game in another direction. Team USA went 0-for-5 on the power play, including a man-advantage in overtime. (The Czechs went 0-for-4 on the power play.) USA forward Brian O'Neill missed a potential late game-winning goal by an inch, and the U.S. failed to score at all in the shootout.
It was undoubtedly a disappointing result for the Americans, but they went down fighting.
The United States struck first with an early goal from -- who else? -- Ryan Donato. The 21-year-old forward from Harvard found the back of the net for his fifth goal in as many games in Pyeongchang, the most of any player in the tournament thus far.
The Czechs answered about 10 minutes later when Jan Kolar blasted a slap shot from the left point and found his first goal of the tournament to tie the game 1-1. Kolar's equalizer came after USA's John McCarthy earned a faceoff violation, forcing Brian Gionta to take the defensive zone draw. Gionta lost the faceoff to Czech center Jan Kovar, who played the puck to himself and quickly fed Kolar at the point.
The game remained tied heading into first intermission, but the Czechs seized control to open the middle frame. They dominated possession and were able to jump out to a 2-1 lead on the strength of a goal from defenseman Tomas Kundratek.
When USA forward Mark Arcobello was hit was a tripping penalty shortly after Kundratek's go-ahead goal, it looked like the USA was in danger of letting the game get away from them.
Instead, the Americans managed to get their biggest goal of the tournament while shorthanded. A perfect neutral zone feed from Brian O'Neill sprung a great chance for Jim Slater in transition, and Slater ripped a quick wrister that found its way past the Czech goalie and into the back of the net for a huge equalizer.
That goal injected some life back into the United States. The two teams battled and exchanged chances in a 2-2 tie game all the way until the end of regulation. O'Neill had a golden opportunity to be the hero when he commanded an odd-man rush in the final moments of the game, but his shot rang off the crossbar in devastating fashion.
Ultimately, the shootout was needed to decide a winner, and Team USA fell short. Petr Koukal was the only Czech shooter to convert on his chance, but it was all the Czech Republic needed. All five American shooters were denied by goaltender Pavel Francouz.
As a result, it served as a somewhat fitting conclusion to a very up-and-down tournament for the American men's team, which was comprised of a motley crew of aging veterans, fringe pros and promising young stars. Their medal dreams died before they would have liked, but several players -- namely youngsters Donato and Troy Terry, who had five assists in the tournament -- should benefit from the experience gained in South Korea.
Meanwhile, the Czech Republic moves on to the semis, where they'll face either Olympic Athletes of Russia or Norway.
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