Don’t watch now, but the young USA hockey team could be fun to watch at the Olympics.
Sean Farrell had a hat trick and provided one of two assists for the team as the Americans beat China 8-0 on Thursday night in the host nation’s Olympic debut in men’s hockey.
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Farrell delivered his back pass behind the net to Noah Cates and also scored America’s fourth, fifth and eighth goals. Andy Miele provided another no-look assist on Brian O’Neill’s goal, Minnesota center Ben Meyers covered a backhand and Matty Beniers showed the offensive ability that made him the No. 2 pick in the NHL Draft with its goal.
Boston University goaltender Drew Commesso wasn’t tested much, but he was quick when needed, making 29 saves for the shutout. The 19-year-old has become the youngest American goalkeeper to compete in the Olympics.
After a slow start, the Americans’ young speed and skill were on display and eventually wore down their overmatched opponent and edged them 55-29. Only American-born goalkeeper Jeremy Smith stayed the course through the first half for China, finishing with 47 saves.
He couldn’t do much about Brendan Brisson’s power-play goal that opened the scoring midway through the first period, or Cates’ shot from the forward in second that made it 2-0. . Skating in front of around 1,000 Chinese fans, the home side of mostly North American players naturalized for the Games hung on before the Americans broke through three times in second and four more times in third.
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Seven of the eight American goals were scored by a player currently in college. The other was O’Neill, the only returner from the 2018 tournament in Pyeongchang when the United States were knocked out in the quarter-finals in a shootout loss to the Czech Republic.
Even without Auston Matthews, Patrick Kane and a generation of elite American talent, expectations are higher this time around. Blowing up China says little about what the United States can do in the tournament, even though it was a good start.
The United States will next face arch-rivals Canada, who beat defending silver medalists Germany 5-1 in their first game of the tournament. That showdown is scheduled for Saturday afternoon in Beijing before the United States take on Germany on Sunday night in their final game of the preliminary round.
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In other action Thursday, former NHL forwards Lucas Wallmark and Anton Lander scored to help Sweden beat Latvia 3-2, and Sakari Manninen scored a hat trick on his 30th birthday in the 6- 2 of Finland against Slovakia.