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Slovakia Upsets USA in Shootout to Advance to Semifinal

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.
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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.

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