If the opening of the men’s Olympic tournament is any indication, there will be nary a dull moment in PyeongChang. The first day of action saw two upsets by two underdogs that most would have assumed would finish in a fight for third place in Group B. Meanwhile, the women’s tournament saw its own spectacular Group B action, as Sweden and Switzerland fought for top spot on a day when history was made – twice.
SLOVENIA PULLS OFF SHOCKER, DOWNS U.S. IN OVERTIME
Having spent several seasons in North America, including a brief stint with the Detroit Red Wings, Jan Mursak is likely the most familiar name on the Slovenian roster, and he certainly made his presence felt stateside by delivering two daggers against Team USA in the opening game of the men’s Olympic tournament.
In the early going, everything seemed to be going the right way for the Americans. Late in the first frame, Brian O’Neill scored the opening goal for Team USA. By the time the second period had concluded, the U.S. had doubled its lead thanks to Jordan Greenway, one of the players pulled from the college ranks to bring some offense.
Slovenia took over in the third, however, with an unrelenting attack finally rewarded when Jan Urbas brought the underdogs within one. The score remained that way until the dying minutes when Mursak, with the Slovenian net empty, smacked home the equalizer to send the game to overtime. It took Mursak 38 seconds to capitalize in the extra frame, as he took a cross-ice pass from Roc Tikar and slotted home the winner past American goaltender Ryan Zapolski.
GOLD FAVORITES RUSSIA SUFFERS STUNNING LOSS TO SLOVAKIA
There is no team in the Olympic tournament as chock full of talent as the Olympic Athletes from Russia, but the star-studded side has already suffered what will stand as one of the more stunning defeats of the tournament at the hands of Slovakia. The loss is especially shocking given it appeared OAR were in line to dominate after scoring twice in the first 4:08 of the contest.
Down 2-0 early, though, Slovakia showed its own brand of quick-strike offense. At the 16-minute mark of the first period, the Slovaks cut the Russian lead in half with a tally from Peter Olvecky. Not even two minutes later, Martin Bakos picked up an unassisted goal to tie the contest. And after the two teams battled back-and-forth without a goal in the second frame, Peter Ceresnak found twine behind Russian goaltender Vasili Koshechkin midway through the third. From there, the Slovakian defense and goaltender Branislav Konrad shut the door and held the star Russians off the scoresheet to clinch a 3-2 victory.
SWISS WIN CRUCIAL GROUP B CONTEST, JAPAN GETS FIRST WIN
While most are looking forward to the long-awaited clash between Canada and Team USA, a contest which will decide who finishes atop Group A, Switzerland and Sweden met in a pivotal match that decided top spot in Group B. Both sides entered the game undefeated, having run roughshod over Japan and Korea in round-robin play.
The Swiss and the Swedes came out flying, but Switzerland’s Florence Schelling and Sweden’s Sara Grahn were the early story and remained the focus throughout the contest. The first frame was scoreless, but Switzerland finally broke through when Alina Muller notched a power play tally with roughly six minutes remaining in the second period. The one-goal lead stood until early in the third, when Anna Borgqvist drew the two sides level on a Sweden power play. Less than four minutes later, though, Phoebe Staenz took advantage of another Swedish penalty by potting Switzerland’s second power play goal of the game. The Swedes pushed late, but couldn’t find equalizer as Switzerland clinched Group B with a 2-1 decision. With the win, Swiss goalie Schelling passed Canada’s Kim St. Pierre for most career Olympic wins.
In other Group B action, Japan defeated Korea 4-1 on the strength of two-point nights from Shiori Koike and Rui Ukita. Nana Fujimoto only had to make 12 saves as Japan outshot Korea 44-13. The victory marked the first Olympic win for Japan.
1. Jan Mursak (SLO): Two goals, including the game-winner, in Slovenia’s upset victory.
2. Florence Schelling (SUI): Stopped 33 of 34 to win her record-setting ninth career Olympic game.
3. Gasper Kroselj (SLO): Made 34 saves and shut the door in the third period against Team USA.
Wednesday, Feb. 14
USA vs. Canada (W), 10:10 p.m. ET
Germany vs. Finland (M), 10:10 p.m. ET
Thursday, Feb. 15
Sweden vs. Norway (M), 2:40 a.m. ET
Finland vs. OAR (W), 2:40 a.m. ET
South Korea vs. Czech Republic (M), 7:10 a.m. ET
Canada vs. Switzerland (M), 7:10 a.m. ET
Slovakia vs. USA (M), 10:10 p.m. ET