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Friday, 14 February 2014 16:29

Olympic Men's Hockey Preliminary Round Recap - Day 1 and 2

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Here is a recap of each country's first preliminary round matches in the Olympic men's hockey tournament.

Group A:

United States 7, Slovakia 1

                Zdeno Chara has had a very interesting week in Sochi.  First he carried the flag for his home country of Slovakia, then he became an Internet sensation with pictures of the bed in his hotel room and with other athletes standing next to the 6'9" hockey star, and now his hockey team got a rude awakening at the hands of the United States.  Colorado Avalanche's Paul Stastny, whose father is from Slovakia and played for the Czechoslovakian and Slovak national hockey teams as well as the NHL, scored two of the United States' six goals in a 14-minute span in the second period, taking the game from a 1-1 tie to a blowout.  Ryan Kesler, David Backes, Phil Kessel, and Dustin Brown also scored in the second period, with Patrick Kane, T.J. Oshie, and James van Riemsdyk tallying two assists each during the offensive onslaught.  Jonathan Quick got the start in net over Ryan Miller and had 22 saves, only allowing a second period goal from Detroit Red Wings' Tomas Tatar.  Quick will get the start in net on Saturday for the hugely anticipated match against Russia.  Chara led the Slovakian team in ice time and tied for the team lead with three shots on goal but did not register a point.

Russia 5, Slovenia 2

                Russia needed two third period goals from Valeri Nichushkin and the Edmonton Oilers' Anton Belov to shake a stubborn Slovenian team and escape with a 5-2 win.  The Russian team has 16 NHL stars, including Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin, who each had a goal and an assist during the first four minutes of the game, as Russia jumped out to a 2-0 lead over a Slovenian team with just two NHL players on its roster.  Slovenia only had 14 shots on goal, yet got two of them by Russian goalie Semyon Varlamov of the Colorado Avalanche, who looked shaky behind the pipes and may not get the start on Saturday against the U.S. squad.  Ilya Kovalchuk, who left a lucrative contract with the New Jersey Devils to play for Russia's Kontinental Hockey League, also scored for the Russian team.  Ziga Jeglic scored both Slovenian goals in the second period, one with just over a minute gone in the period and the second just over a minute after Kovalchuk's goal to cut the Russian lead to 3-2. 

Group B:

Canada 3, Norway 1

                Patrice Bergeron went from centering one of the hottest lines in the NHL to playing wing on the fourth line of the Canadian hockey team, yet he still found a way to make a huge contribution in Canada's 3-1 win over Norway.  Bergeron assisted on both of Canada's second period goals, giving the star-filled team an insurmountable lead.  Shea Weber (Nashville Predators) and Jamie Benn (Dallas Stars) were the beneficiaries of Bergeron's assists.  Drew Doughty from the Los Angeles Kings scored in the third period for Canada, whose entire roster is filled with NHL players.  Carey Price got the start in net for Canada, facing just 20 shots on goal from a Norwegian squad with just one NHL player (Mats Zuccarello of the New York Rangers).  After a sluggish first period, Canada dominated play in the final 40 minutes, as Norway went 18 minutes without having a shot on goal during the second and third periods.  The play was so lopsided that even-strength hockey began to look like a power-play for Canada, as they spent the majority of shifts in the Norwegian end during the latter parts of the game.  Although Price looked solid in net, he will not dress for Canada's next matchup.  Roberto Luongo (Vancouver Canucks) is scheduled to play goalie for Canada when they face Austria, with Mike Smith (Phoenix Coyotes) projected to be his backup.

Finland 8, Austria 4

                Finland exploded for eight goals on 52 shots and survived a shaky Olympic debut from Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask to notch their first win in the tournament.  Three NHL players scored for the Finnish squad: Mikael Granlund (Minnesota Wild) had two goals while Pittsburgh Penguins' Jussi Jokinen and Olli Maatta both had a goal.  Michael Grabner from the New York Islanders had a hat trick for Austria, who had a 2-1 lead nine minutes into the game before allowing five unanswered goals to a Finnish team known more for its goaltenders than its offense.  Finland may have the best goalie trio in the Olympics, with Tuukka Rask getting the start over Dallas Stars' Kari Lehtonen and San Jose Sharks' Antti Niemi.  Finland was without their captain and the leading scorer in Olympic hockey history, as Teemu Selanne left the game with an upper-body injury.  Selanne is expected to be fine for the rest of the preliminary round matchups.

Group C:

Sweden 4, Czech Republic 2

                Sweden jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead, chasing Czech starting goalie Jakub Kovar from the game early in the second period.  The Czech Republic scored two quick goals to get within two halfway through the second period, but Sweden was able to hold on to the victory behind 27 saves by New York Rangers' goalie Henrik Lundqvist.  Sweden got two goals from Erik Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators, along with a goal each from Patrik Berglund (St. Louis Blues) and Henrik Zetterberg (Detroit).  New Jersey Devils' teammates Jaromir Jagr and Marek Zidlicky scored back-to-back goals two minutes apart for the Czechs.  The matchup featured two Boston Bruins players squaring off against each other, as both Loui Eriksson (Sweden) and David Krejci (Czech Republic) saw ample playing time but did not register points in the contest.  Eriksson was on the ice for one of Karlsson's goal, setting a screen in front of Kovar on the goal that clinched the win and pulled the young Czech goalie from the net.  Kovar was a surprise starter after Ondrej Pavelec of the Winnipeg Jets was a late scratch for undisclosed reasons.

Switzerland 1, Latvia 0

                Latvia, a huge underdog with just one NHL player on its roster, found themselves in a scoreless tie until eight seconds left in the third period, when a puck deflected off a Latvian defender and past goaltender Edgars Masalskis for the only goal of the game.  Simon Moser was credited with the goal for the Swiss team, who has eight NHL players on its roster, including Anaheim Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller.  Hiller made 21 saves for the first shutout in the 2014 Olympic tournament.  Masalskis stopped the first 38 shots he faced against the Swiss in his fourth trip to the Olympics.  Latvia has never made it past the first match of the qualification round, while the Swiss has lost in the quarterfinals in 2006 and 2010.

Adam Belue

My name is Adam Belue, I'm from Fall River, MA, and I'm a sports fanatic.  I'll watch and write about just about any and every sport, even the fringe ones that aren't really sports like bowling, poker, and ultimate frisbee.  I'm a huge Green Bay Packers fan, and a self-proclaimed New England Patriots hater (and proud of it!)... which makes my job in a sporting goods store quite interesting.  I'm a big fan of the other local teams (Bruins, Red Sox, and Celtics), along with the Alabama Crimson Tide and college football as a whole.  I may be a bit obsessed (or a lot obsessed) with Taylor Swift, and I've seen her in concert four times so far... some of the best times I've had by the way her concerts are quite the experience!  I'm also a huge tennis fan, and have played the sport for a good majority of my life.  I wish more people watched and appreciated tennis.  I'm currently a part of the Boston Bruins and Boston Red Sox Beat Team on CLNS Radio, and post a weekly fantasy football and college football column during the season.