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Men's Olympic Hockey Recap: Sweden, Slovakia, Russia, Finland Advance to Semifinal

Four teams move on and four teams go home as the final four of the men's Olympic hockey tournament has been set.
Team Slovakia

Slovakia Shocks USA

A late goal to force extra time changed the course of the game as Slovakia upset the Group A winners, the United States, 3-2 in the shootout, becoming the first team to advance to the men's Olympic hockey semifinal.

Slovakia will play for a medal for just the second time in the team's existence, finishing fourth in Vancouver. It was a big bounce-back for the ninth-ranked IIHF team, who finished 11th in the past two Olympic Games. The Americans fell short after going a perfect 3-0 in the round-robin while leading 2-1 in the final minute of Wednesday's quarterfinal.

The goalies were standouts in the game, with Slovakia's Patrik Rybar stopping 33, while USA's Strauss Mann sent 35 away.

Juraj Slafkovsky, Slovakia's 17-year-old sensation, struck first for Slovakia. The 2022 NHL draft prospect received a pass from Peter Ceresnak in the slot and made no mistake with his wrist shot, perfectly placing it past Mann for the 1-0 goal.

The lead lasted most of the third period until Nick Abruzzese scored to make it 19:14. It came after good work from Steve Kampfer and Matty Beniers, with Beniers setting up Abruzzese in front for 1-on-1 that Abruzzese didn't waste.

An unlikely goal-scorer proved to be the source of the game-winner for the United States. Sam Hentges made it 2-1 at 8:56 after sneaking past Slovakia and getting a pass from Nick Perbix in front. Hentges backhanded the puck past Rybar and in for the 2-1 goal at 28:56, a score that would last for most of regulation.

Slovakia looked in trouble after taking five consecutive penalties, including going down 5-on-3 at one point. But they killed all of them off, and they'd see the momentum shift in a big way.

With the Slovak net empty with 44 seconds left, Marek Hrivik crashed the crease and poked the loose disk behind Mann for the tying goal, forcing overtime in the battle to move on.

The extra frame was high-action, with both teams trading quality opportunities at both ends. In the skills competition, Peter Cehlarik scored the game-winner to upset the Group A winners in spectacular fashion, pulling off the win against USA for the first time since the 2006 Olympic Games in Turin, Italy.

Sweden Shuts Out Canada

Sweden needed just one goal to move on to the Olympic semifinal, beating Canada 2-0 in men's hockey action.

Sweden will play one of the favorites for gold, Russia, on Friday. It's a big bounce-back effort for Sweden, who was eliminated by Germany in the quarterfinal back in 2018.

With Canada out, no North American team will play for a medal for the first time since 2006.

The game was mostly a defensive showcase, with neither team looking to give up many dangerous chances in a contest that sat at 0-0 after two periods. The goaltenders came up sharp, with Canada's Matt Tomkins making 24 stops and Lars Johansson turning away 21 for Sweden.

The icebreaker finally came at 10:15 for Sweden. Lucas Wallmark stole the puck off of a Jack McBain giveaway and knuckled the shot over Matt Tomkins on a wrister to make it 1-0 - and that's all it took. Anton Lander scored an empty-netter for good measure to win the game 2-0.

Russia Too Much for Denmark

The Russian Olympic Committee will play for a medal after edging out Denmark 3-1 in men's Olympic hockey action on Wednesday.

Russia will look to build upon its gold medal from South Korea in 2018, with many projecting Russia to be the top candidate for gold.

Denmark's first Olympic tournament ends early, but they'll finish with three wins in a successful debut for one of the smallest hockey nations in the tournament.

Russia's top line, which had been pretty quiet for most of the tournament, struck first. Vadim Shapchyov would score after Nikita Gusev's shot missed the net, with Shipachyov getting the rebound after Danish netminder Sebastian Dahm lost sight of the puck.

The lead would remain until 22:57 on the power play when Frans Nielsen tied it up, putting some fear in a Russian team many expected to cruise to the win.

But the ROC would get back into the game with Nikita Nesterov's blast at 34:56, hitting the crossbar and then the rear bar for the 2-1 goal. A series of missed in-close opportunities at each end plagued the two teams, but Slava Voynov scored late in the third to seal the deal for the Russians and avoid a late upset.

Finland Send Switzerland Packing

Finland showed its muscle in a 5-1 victory over Switzerland to advance to the men's Olympic hockey semifinals.

The Finns will meet with Slovakia in the semifinal, marking a rematch of the team's 6-2 win over the Slovaks early in the tournament. Finland has won a medal in six of the past nine Olympics, but has never won gold. They last won bronze at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.

Two goals two minutes apart by the Finns really set the tone for the rest of the game. Miro Aaltonen scored at 8:37 after getting in front of Reto Berra, who would react to a shot from Niklas Friman and fall down. Aaltonen knocked in the second chance past the former NHL goalie to make it 1-0.

Shortly after, Mikko Lehtonen's shot hit off Santeri Alatalo's arm before bouncing off Berra's head and in for the 2-0 goal – an unlucky situation for a Swiss team that showed some muscle early.

Unfortunately for Switzerland, things went from bad to worse early in the second. Marko Anttila made it 3:08 after scoring on Berra glove side, chasing him from the net in favor of Leonardo Genoni in hopes of shaking things up to end the game.

And for a little bit, it worked. Andres Ambuhl scored at 17:49 on the power play to make it 3-1 in what could potentially be his final Olympic goal after five tournaments. Switzerland pulled Genoni with five minutes left to try and spark a comeback effort, but Iiro Pakarinen and Teemu Hartikainen both scored empty-netters to seal the deal.


Three Stars

1. Patrik Rybar, SVK: Yet another tremendous performance, this time stopping 33 shots after 70 minutes and everything sent his way in the shootout.

2. Nikita Gusev, ROC: Set up two goals and generally had his best game of the tournament for the Russians.

3. Lars Johansson, SWE: Was a surprise starter for the Swedes, but after recording a shutout, can't go wrong with that.


Semifinal Schedule - Feb 18

Slovakia vs. Finland - 11:10 PM ET (Feb. 17)
ROC vs. Sweden - 8:10 AM ET


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