The US Men’s Hockey team has been out for redemption ever since they lost the gold medal to Canada at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics in heartbreaking fashion. They’ve claimed to be out for revenge the past four years, and yesterday they took their frustrations out on Slovakia.
USA came out with a vengeance in their first game of the Sochi Olympics, blowing the doors off Slovakia to the tune of 7-1. After taking a 1-1 tie into the first intermission, America exploded for six goals in the second period, including four in the span of 12 minutes. Slovakia’s starting netminder, Jaroslav Halak, was chased after America’s fifth goal, but backup Peter Budaj conceded two more. The majority of the US goals came from laser one-timers off deft passing. The team was flying all over the place, and it wasn’t long before anyone watching realized Slovakia wasn’t going to be able to handle it.
The third period went scoreless, but the damage was already done and a message was sent to the rest of the countries in the tournament; America is hungry for gold. But while the likes of Ryan Kesler, Paul Stastny and Phil Kessel had no problem attacking Zdeno Chara and the rest of Slovakia’s defense, a bigger challenge lies ahead tomorrow.
The US team will look to carry the momentum of their blowout into their bout tomorrow morning with Russia, the hometown team. Are they prepared to take on the task at hand?
Slovakia, while talented, wasn’t really anticipated to contend for gold. Russia, however, is pretty stacked. Alexander Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk and Evgeni Malkin are just a few of the biggest names on Team Russia. While their 5-2 victory yesterday over Slovenia doesn’t appear to look as convincing as America’s win, make no mistake, beating Russia is a tall mountain to climb. Doing so in Russia’s own backyard will be even tougher.
The US team has a lot to be happy about with their first victory in the Olympics. If they had lost, or even won ugly, tomorrow’s game might have been a little tougher to prep for. After displaying pure domination against Slovakia, they’re bringing some swagger to the ice tomorrow morning. They’ll definitely need it, as Russia’s forwards are going to come out guns blazing.
If America can put together another convincing win, especially over one of the tournament’s most talented teams, it might be time to seriously consider them a top candidate to bring home gold.