Team U.S.A. and team Canada are both medal contenders in men’s hockey this year in Sochi, and they both made their Olympic debuts on Thursday. The Americans are part of Group A in the tournament, which consists of Slovenia, Slovakia, and the host Russian squad. Canada is in group B which features Austria, Norway and Finland.
The Americans first game of the Sochi Olympics would pit them against a talented Slovakia squad. Slovakia features a plethora of NHL players including flag-bearer, and Boston Bruins captain, Zdeno Chara. The American team came into Sochi hoping to utilize their speed on the larger European ice. Players like Patrick Kane and Phil Kessel will have more opportunity to showcase their diverse skill sets.
In the first period, it was the Americans who scored first, thanks to a goal by the Washington Capitals defenseman, John Carlson. The goal by Carlson was the only scoring in the first period by either team, as the U.S. took a 1-0 lead heading into the second period.
Less than a minute into the second period, Thomas Tatar answered for the Slovaks with a wrist shot that blew past American goaltender, Jonathan Quick. After Tatar tied the game at one, Ryan Kesler scored off a one-timer just over a minute to give the Americans their one goal lead back. After the goal by Kesler, the U.S. opened up the floodgates.
The Americans would go on to dominate the second period, scoring five more unanswered goals following the goal by Kesler. David Backes, Phil Kessel, and Dustin Brown all scored in the period, while Paul Stastny scored twice. Stastny, whose father played with many years with Slovakian and Czechoslovakian national teams, came up big for the U.S. in their Sochi Olympic Debut.
Kessel finished the game with a goal and two assists, while Patrick Kane contributed two assists. Jonathan Quick, who got the start over Vancouver tournament MVP Ryan Miller, stopped 22 of 23 shots faced. The Americans next game will likely be more competitive as they face the powerhouse Russian squad on Saturday.
Team Canada was hoping for similar results to the U.S. in their Men’s Hockey debut in Sochi when they faced off against Norway. Canada comes into Sochi with 17 players who serve was the captain to their NHL club. The Montreal Canadiens, Carrie Price got the start over Roberto Luongo for Canada in their opener.
The first period saw an even battle that did not feature any scoring. Canada outshot Norway 9-8. In the second period Team Canada broke the ice with a blue line blast from Alternate captain, Shea Weber. Later on in the period, Jamie Benn added to the Canadian lead thanks to a nice pass from the Boston Bruins, Patrice Bergeron. Canada took a 2-0 lead heading into the third period.
Norway had a power play that carried into the third period and less than 30 seconds into the frame Patrick Thoresen scored off a deflection, cutting the Canadian lead to one. Just over a minute later, Drew Doughty would answer for the Canadians giving them a 3-1 lead. That would hold on to be the final. Canada’s next game will be against Austria tomorrow and Roberto Luongo will get the start in goal.
Both the U.S. and Canada started off slowly in their Men’s Olympic Hockey debuts, but they eventually found their form and both teams will be looking for a gold medal in Sochi 2014.
By Eric Kummel