GANGNEUNG, South Korea – There are two types of people in this world. There’s those who get their news 140 characters at a time, and those who read The New York Times. Some listen to classical music and others like 3-minute pop songs. And there are those who love the shootout and those who loath it.
For the latter, the opinion largely comes down to which end of the final score you are on.
For the U.S. Men’s Team, having a game come down to a mano e mano battle of skill and will, it is a horrible way to determine one’s Olympic fate. For the Czech Republic players who are moving on to the semifinals, it’s the greatest thing to happen to hockey since the invention of the curved stick.
“If you win it, it’s great. If you lose it, it’s no good. But those are the rules and we knew it coming in,” a frustrated U.S. head coach Tony Granato said afterward.
Zapolski stopped 26 shots in Team USA's QF loss
“It’s unfortunate for hockey fans and people who are part of the game to see five guys going in on a breakaway and whichever team gets one more [goal] moves on and plays in a medal game and the other team goes home. But those are the rules and you have to live with them.”
Ryan Zapolski was once again a rock in goal for the U.S., stopping 26 shots through 70 minutes of end-to-end action. His only blemish in the shootout was a goal to Petr Koukal, who also netted the game-winner in his team’s shootout win over Canada in the preliminary round.
“It’s a shootout and can go either way. It is what it is,” said Zapolski, who played every minute in goal for the U.S. “You obviously don’t want to lose that way but you don’t want to lose at all. That’s the way it goes.”
Troy Terry has been on both sides of the shootout debate. At last year’s World Juniors, the Highlands Park, Colo., native was the toast of the tournament, scoring three times to beat Russia in the semifinals and once more against Canada in the gold-medal game.
So, when today’s game couldn’t be decided in 60 minutes of regulation or a 10-minute sudden death overtime, the hockey world was abuzz with the prospect of Terry once again leading the U.S. to victory.
“Terry, Terry, Terry,” tweeted T.J. Oshie, the Olympic shootout hero from four years ago in Sochi.
Some moves translate better on the bigger stage than others. Today, his backhand attempt didn’t work and the U.S. is moving out of the Athlete Village instead of moving on in the Olympic tournament.
“Their goalie today is really quick and his hands are different. He catches with the [right] hand, which is different from the traditional goalie. That makes the five-hole shot that most people know that I like a little different,” said Terry, who was the fourth of five U.S. shooters stymied by Czech goalie Pavel Francouz.
“I just tried to fake a shot and get him moving and pull it back and he made a great play. If I was able to get it up I think I might have had him. He made a great save and that’s hockey.”
It was a tough ending to a game that neither team deserved to lose. Both had great chances only to be thwarted by excellent goaltending at both ends of the ice. Ryan Donato’s fifth goal of the tournament was matched later in the first period by Jan Kolar’s blast from the point that beat a screened Ryan Zapolski.
The Czechs took a 2-1 lead midway through the second period and were pressuring for more when Brian O’Neill grabbed a loose puck and hit Jim Slater in stride, and the 35-year old grizzled veteran didn’t miss for a short-handed goal that seemed to ignite the U.S. bench.
The third period and overtime period were back-and-forth affairs that saw great chances for both teams, including O’Neill’s laser that rang off the crossbar in overtime.
It’s not for lack of effort for a team that many had written off before the Olympic flame was lit. This was a team that battled hard for more than 60 minutes, leaving everything on the ice.
“It went down to the last shooter in a shootout. When that happens you never know,” Slater said. “We had our chances. We had some power plays, hit a crossbar, and another good shot in overtime. For whatever reason it wasn’t there.
“It was a really good matchup. Everyone feels terrible in that room right now but they shouldn’t feel terrible about our effort and the way we represented the USA.”
At the end of the day, Granato may not like the tiebreaking system in international hockey but he is proud of his players and how the battled on the ice and represented the United States throughout the tournament. And he told them as much during an emotional locker room speech afterward.
“At the end of the day look back and be proud of what we accomplished during these two weeks,” Granato said. “We lost one game in regulation playing against some pretty good hockey teams. I loved how we played and I love the players on the team. It’s just a bad way to end because we felt we were good enough to keep going but we’re not.”
|Wed., Feb. 14||Slovenia||Preliminary||OTL, 2-3||Kwandong Hockey Centre|
|Fri., Feb. 16||Slovakia||Preliminary||W, 2-1||Gangneung Hockey Centre|
|Sat., Feb. 17||Olympic Athletes From Russia||Preliminary||L, 0-4||Gangneung Hockey Centre|
|Tues., Feb. 20||Slovakia||Qualification||W, 5-1||Gangneung Hockey Centre|
|Wed., Feb 21||Czech Republic||Quarterfinals||SOL, 2-3||Gangneung Hockey Centre|