United States

Team USA Falls to Slovenia 3-2 in Its Men's Hockey Opener

The loss is a blow to American hopes of progressing to the quarterfinals, but the team is higher in the standings than the Russians, the pre-tournament favorites

The U.S. men's hockey team was upset in its first game of the Pyeongchang Olympics Wednesday, after it failed to defend a 2-0 lead over Slovenia.

Slovenia battled back to tie late in the third period and won the game seconds into overtime, beating an American team that featured a Stanley Cup winner.

In Sochi, the U.S. defeated Slovenia 5-1, but these Olympics are being played without active NHL players. The American roster is full of veterans playing in international leagues while Slovenia's team is largely intact after making it into the quarterfinals four years ago.

The loss is a blow to American hopes of progressing to the quarterfinals, but the team is higher in the standings than the pre-tournament favorites. The highly touted Olympic Athletes from Russia lost 3-2 in regulation time to Slovakia.

The U.S. opened its game stronger than Slovenia, but the Europeans had the best chance to take the lead after an American ended his team's power play by committing a penalty.

With the teams skating 4 on 4, there was a scramble in front of the U.S. net, with American defender Noah Welch stopping a sure goal by diving in front of the open goal.

But the U.S. kept pressing in the Slovenian zone and capitalized before the end of the period, forward Brian O'Neill slamming home a redirected pass from right in front of the net.

Team USA doubled their lead in the second period, and O'Neill had a hand in it, kicking a rebound to Boston University student Jordan Greenway. The 20-year-old made no mistake with an empty net.

Slovenia pegged the score back in the third period when defender Blaz Gregorc slipped a shot by American goalie Ryan Zapolski, who was being pestered by Slovenian forwards. The goal was credited to Jan Urbas.

Slovenia kept up the pressure, hitting the crossbar and sending the puck through Zapolski's legs, only for it to go wide.

With less than two minutes to go and Slovenia's goalie pulled for an extra attacker, a shot from Gregorc skittered in front of Zapolski's net, and forward Jan Mursak put it in to tie the game.

Mursak won the game minutes later after it went to a three-on-three sudden-death overtime. The Slovenian captain took a cross-ice pass and slotted it over the sprawling Zapolsk.

U.S. captain Brian Gionta, 39, is the undisputed leader of the squad with more than 1,000 career NHL games under his belt, as well as a Stanley Cup victory with the New Jersey Devils in 2003.

There were some future stars to watch as well, headlined by University of Denver forward Troy Terry, who was Team USA’s hero at the 2017 World Junior Championship. 

Slovenia is missing its one marquee name: Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar.

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