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Men's Hockey Olympic Recap: Canada, USA, Finland, Sweden Start Strong

Canada and USA had big wins in their respective openers and rivals Finland and Sweden also started off strong on the second day of men's Olympic hockey action in Beijing.

USA Crushes China 8-0

China was no match for the United States on Thursday, with the Americans taking a 8-0 victory in its first game of the tournament.

It was a tough outing as expected for China, who was taking part in its first-ever men's Olympic hockey game. China held their own throughout the first half of the game, but USA's experience and overall speed took over in the second half and China, the 32nd-ranked team according to the IIHF, couldn't keep up.

China, especially goaltender Jeremy Smith, did a great job of keeping the Americans off the scoreboard for much of the first period. But at 10:38 on the power play, Brendan Brisson grabbed a loose puck from Matt Knies in a scramble in front and beat Smith glove side.

China was doing everything it could to make USA's life tough, and it took a tremendous pass by Sean Farrell to create the second goal early in the second. Philadelphia Flyers prospect Noah Cates scored at 5:32 after Farrell made a quick backhand pass behind the net, catching Smith and the Chinese defense off guard to double USA's lead.

China started to falter in the second period, with the Americans showing their speed. At 11:13. Brian O'Neill, the only returning player from USA's team in 2018, scored on a shot that just trickled past Smith and in, while Farrell's quick wrist shot went bar down and in for the fourth goal at 38:07.

China started to falter in the second period, with the Americans showing their speed. At 11:13. Brian O'Neill, the only returning player from USA's team in 2018, scored on a shot that just trickled past Smith and in, while Farrell's quick wrist shot went bar down and in for the fourth goal at 38:07. Farrell added two more goals and an assist in the third and Matty Beniers added a goal himself to cap the game off at 8-0, a dominating performance from start to finish.

USA will look for the top spot in Group A in its game against Canada on Friday night at 11:40 PM ET. China will play Saturday at 3:40 AM against a German team also seeking its first win.

Canada Stars Strong in Rematch With Germany

Canada started off the 2022 men's Olympic hockey tournament in Beijing with a 5-1 win against Germany on Thursday.

It was a big win for Canada, who fell to the Germans in the semifinal back in 2018. Canada didn't get any proper exhibition competition together before the tournament began outside of an intra-squad scrimmage in conjunction with the United States. Germany, meanwhile, brought back 10 players from the 2018 silver-medal team, a group that often stays together for other international events throughout the year.

Alex Grant scored the game's opening goal at 4:43 with what appeared to be a harmless wrist shot from just inside the point. But the play everyone was talking about was the major hit by Eric O'Dell on Marco Nowak, hitting him at full force behind the goal line and taking him out of action for the rest of the game.

The rest of the period was definitely one-sided. at 9:47, Ben Street's blister of a wrister beat a surprised Mathias Niederberger, with Daniel Winnik scoring on a cross-crease play 32 seconds later from a feed off of Adam Cracknell.

The Germans found a bit to work with in the first half of the second and it eventually led to Tobias Rieder's goal at 30:45. Leo Pfoederl took advantage of a bad Canadian giveaway around the net and it eventually landed on Rieder's stick, who wasted no time beating Edward Pasquale blocker side for the 3-1 goal.

It didn't do much to spark a comeback effort, however. At 32:58 on the power play, Maxim Noreau, one of Canada's best players from the 2018 tournament, sent a shot from the blueline that fooled Niederberger for the 4-1 goal. Jordan Weal added a fifth goal late in the game to finalize the game at 5-1, a game that never was in doubt for the Canadians.

Canada's next challenge will come against the United States on Friday evening at 11:40 PM ET. Germany will look to bounce back with a game against China on Feb. 12 at 3:40 AM ET, a game the Germans are heavy favorites in.

Hat-Trick Leads Finland to Win Over Slovakia

A hat-trick from Sakari Manninen helped Finland defeat Slovakia 6-2 in its opening men's Olympic hockey game in Beijing.

The game was just the second meeting between the two nations at the Olympics, with Finland winning 5-3 in 2010 to win bronze in Vancouver. Over the past decade, Finland has a 6-0 record at the World Championship with a 19-5 goal advantage, so the result was expected by a team many expected to compete for gold.

The game started out positively for the Slovaks, who held a 6-0 shot advantage and a 1-0 lead after 10 minutes of play. Juraj Slafkovsky, a potential top 10 pick for the 2022 NHL draft, scored his first Olympic goal at 5:33 when he picked up the loose disk in front of Harri Sateri and knocked in the rebound to capitalize on a strong start by the Slovakian attack.

But five minutes later, on the team's first shot, Finland tied it up. Manninen scored on a breakaway to take away Slovakia's mid-period momentum and swing it back the other way. At 14:22, Harri Pesonen scored after outlasting Branislav Konrad on a rebound attempt to make it 2-1, only to have Miro Aaltonen score one of his own to give the Finns a 3-1 lead heading into the break.

Like he did to get the Finns on the board originally, Manninen scored on a breakaway early in the second. This time, Markus Grandlund made a quick tap-pass to a streaking Manninen, who rushed in and beat Konrad in the five-hole to make it 4-1.

After becoming the youngest goal-scorer in men's Olympic hockey history in the first period, Slafkovsky potted another goal. This time, Slafkovsky won a puck battle behind the net and skated out in front, ripping a wrist shot behind Sateri for his second of the evening.

That goal sparked a bit of a late second-period rush for Slovakia, but they couldn't put another on the board. Instead, Manninen's goal after just 16 seconds into the third made it 5-2, putting the game way out of reach for the Slovaks before Aaltonen scored his second with 5:03 left in the game.

Sweden Too Much for Late Latvian Attack

Group C play in Beijing began with Sweden skating to a 3-2 win over Latvia on Thursday.

Sweden now has a 3-0 record against Latvia in Olympic competition, last winning 5-3 in a great battle back during the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.

The scoring started at 9:42 off the back of former NHLer Lucas Wallmark. Standing alone in the slot after pinching in at the last second, Wallmark one-timed a feed from Pontus Holmberg to make it 1-0.

Anton Lander then made it 2-0 just 30 seconds into the middle stanza after getting a rebound created by Mattias Brome and deking Ivars Punnenovs to double up the advantage.

The Wallmark show continued late in the second period. Once again, he scored on a one-timer, this time after putting his perfectly placed shot above Punnenovs' glove and in off of a Henrik Tommernes feed 13 minutes into the frame.

But Latvia wouldn't leave the second without something to cheer about. Renars Krastenbergs scored the team's first goal of the tournament on the power play with a powerful wrist shot off the top bar and in with four minutes to go in the frame to keep things interesting.

And interesting it got. With 13 minutes left in regulation, Nikolajs Jelisejevs scored on a nice move to beat Lars Johansson on the man advantage to make it 3-2. It was just Latvia's 10th shot of the game, showcasing the team's efficiency, but it wouldn't be enough as Johansson shut the door the rest of the way to secure the win.


Three Stars

1. Sean Farrell, USA: Three goals and two assists in a huge Olympic debut for the Montreal Canadiens prospect.

2. Sakari Manninen, FIN: With three goals, Manninen had a massive first game for the Finns.

3. Juraj Slafkovsky, SVK: With two goals, Slafkovsky became the youngest player to ever score in men's Olympic hockey history.


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