Russia Earns Shutout in Opening Win Over Switzerland
Russia's title defense started off strong in the opening game of the men's Olympic hockey tournament, defeating Switzerland 1-0 off the heels of a late first-period goal.
The story of the game was the play of Russian netminder and Philadelphia Flyers prospect Ivan Fedotov. The 6-foot-8 goaltender, playing in his first major international tournament for the Russians, came up big on a variety of opportunities against a determined Swiss effort. Fedotov finished the contest with a 33-save shutout, a big result in his Olympic debut.
The opening period was fairly even, with Switzerland taking a 9-8 shot advantage into the first break. But with just 2.7 seconds left, Anton Slepyshev scored Russia's first goal after his shot attempt banked off Enzo Corvi's leg and in for the late-period back-breaker.
The Swiss were forced to play without two of its key forwards, Dario Simion and Denis Malgin, while they remained in isolation. That didn't stop the Swiss from having a good first half, though, outshooting the Russians 16-12 after 30 minutes of play.
Switzerland nearly found itself back on the board thanks to a double minor to Slepyshev, who was called for headbutting. The penalty carried over into the third period, which likely took away any Swiss momentum gained late in the second. The Russians were able to keep it out of too much harm, and a penalty by Romain Loffel put a premature end to the man advantage. The Swiss did have a shot go underneath the crossbar and out early on the power play, but couldn't muster much in the final three minutes of the double minor.
Switzerland desperately tried everything they could to score in the final minutes of play, with Fabrice Herzog getting a great chance with under three minutes to go. After knocking the puck out of the air, he took the puck all alone and beat Fedotov with a quick move. But instead of putting it in the empty cage, Herzog hit the far post on a seemingly open cage, marking the end of Switzerland's offensive opportunities by failing to force overtime.
Reto Berra kept his team in the game late in the running, making a couple of key stops while down a man late. Berra finished with 29 stops, with the lone goal against not really being his own fault.
Both teams will get Thursday off before resuming Friday. Russia will play Denmark in the first game of the day, with Switzerland meeting the Czech Republic later on.
Denmark Wins Olympic Debut Over Czech Republic
Denmark made history by recording its first win in its first men's Olympic game, beating Czech Republic 2-1 to open Group B play in Beijing.
The Danes, who hold a 2-0-1 record over the Czech Republic over the past three World Championship games, qualified for the tournament in late 2021 after winning a qualification tournament. A usual mainstay in the top division of the World Championship, Denmark had come close on multiple occasions, but only managed to reach the men's Olympic stage for the first time in Beijing.
Denmark's first goal came on the team's third shot of the game 11 minutes in. Markus Lauridsen's shot would go off a defenseman's stick in front of the net and would beat Simon Hrubec up high, giving the Danes a surprising 1-0 lead after getting outshot 12-3 at that point.
Good goaltending from Sebastian Dahm kept the Danes in control, despite getting outshot 17-4 in the first period. On a late penalty shot by Frans Nielsen, the former NHLer helped take the momentum gained by the team's strong goaltending performance by scoring on a penalty shot to make it 2-0, a surprising lead given the dominance by the Czechs with the puck.
The Czechs finally found some puck luck early in the second. At 23:45, Roman Cervenka scored his first of the tournament when his shot soared over the right arm of Dahm and in to make it 2-1. It sparked the Czechs to push the play even further, but Dahm held on for the remaining 37 minutes in a 39-save effort to steal the biggest win in Danish hockey history to date.
1. Sebastian Dahm, DEN: If anyone was going to be a star for the Danes, it was their puck stopper. A historic 39-save effort by one of the best the nation has ever had.
2. Ivan Fedotov, ROC: Switzerland couldn't figure a way to beat Fedotov and his furious moves in the crease.
3. Reto Berra, SUI: For as good as Fedotov was, Berra kept the Swiss from falling down further with some spectacular saves in the third period.