Slovenian ice hockey team opens Olympics with upset over US

Slovenian ice hockey team opens Olympics with upset over US

GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 16: Ryan Donato #16 of the United States celebrates after his second goal against Slovakia during the Men's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round Group B game at Gangneung Hockey Centre on February 16, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea.

Slovakia, which opened by shocking the Russians 3-2, lost to Slovenia 3-2 in a shootout, but an emotional and hard-hitting USA-Russia showdown proved the marquee event.

There was no T.J. Oshie moment to be had as Team USA was blanked by the Olympic Athletes from Russian Federation, 4-0. In their first appearance in Sochi, Slovenia made it to the quarter finals, where they were defeated by Sweden. In an interview with reporters, Kovalchuk resurrected memories of the United States' 2014 Winter Olympics win over Russian Federation, in which T.J. Oshie shot six times during the shootout victory, a strategy Kovalchuk deemed unsporting. Should they make it past Tuesday's game, the Americans will have to face one of the top-four teams in the tournament.

Still, the red and white jerseys of the OAR team are a powerful reminder of Russian and Soviet hockey heritage.

Slovakia recorded only four shots in the first period but scored on two of them just before the intermission. Koshechkin stopped all 29 shots he faced for his first shutout of the tournament, and the Russians flexed their muscles offensively. "They played a hard, physical game and they were the better team tonight". And failing to beat Slovakia at the Olympics is a reminder of more recent problems.

The Russians scored twice in the first five minutes at the Gangneung Hockey Center, with Nikolai Prokhorkin scoring off an assist from Vladislav Gavrikov to take the early lead.

The Americans didn't have a shot on net until six-plus minutes into the game when defenseman Noah Welch finally got the puck to Laco. The Americans' hesitant defense seemed to be a thing of the past, as Team USA was able to keep the Slovakians from pulling their goaltender until it was much too late.

Donato's first goal came just over seven minutes into the first period and Slovakia answered a mere 25 seconds later.

Chants of "Forward Russia" and "Victory" echoed around the arena, which was barely half-full with large areas of empty seats behind both goals.

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