BEIJING (AP) — The United States is knocked out of the men’s hockey tournament at the Olympics in stunning fashion after losing a late lead.
Marek Hrivik scored with 43.7 seconds left in regulation, Peter Cehlarik had the winner and Slovakia beat the United States 3-2 in a shootout on Wednesday to eliminate the top-seeded Americans in the quarterfinals . The United States led for nearly half the game before the equalizer when Slovakia pulled their goalkeeper for an extra striker to play 6-5.
“I’m just sad it’s over,” USA captain Andy Miele said. “Our team fought well. Sometimes those rebounds happen in hockey. Too bad it’s on our side. We’ll just wish Slovakia good luck for the rest of the tournament here.
The United States had grown accustomed to playing close games in the tournament, beating Canada by two goals and Germany by one. But blown coverage in front allowed Hrivik to drop a loose puck past goaltender Strauss Mann, who had been impressive so far and finished with 34 saves.
Only Cehlarik scored in the shootout, while the United States went 0 for 5 against Patrik Rybar. Cehlarik told teammate Juraj Slafkovsky on the bench that he would go forehand, backhand and score and was successful in the fourth round of the shootout.
“I believed it,” Cehlarik said. “I believe in this team.
Having overcome four numerical superiorities, including three in the third period and more than a minute of time at 5 against 3, he came back to bite the Americans. Matty Beniers hit the post on one of USA’s best scoring chances in the third, but the team failed to break Rybar, who was playing a second straight day in net for Slovakia.
“We get the 5v3 and that was a real game-changer,” USA coach David Quinn said. “When you have a 5-on-3 in that scenario and you don’t capitalize on it, you give that other team a lot of hope and they capitalized.”
Slafkovsky scored the first goal for Slovakia, the 17-year-old striker’s fifth of the tournament. He is expected to be in the top 10 at the NHL Draft this summer.
American goals from Nick Abruzzese and Sam Hentges came on classic passing plays. Abruzzese’s goal 7:26 after Slafkovsky’s goal tied the game, and Hentges gave the United States the lead midway through the second period.
Top winger Brian O’Neill was lost for the rest of the game in the second, when he pulled a puck off his left foot.
“It shows a lot: He sacrificed his body for the betterment of the team, and that’s Brian,” Miele said. “It was tough to lose him, but if you’re going to lose someone who sacrifices for the team like that, that’s the best way to go.”
Defender Jake Sanderson missed a second straight game with an undisclosed injury.
Slovakia, coached by longtime NHL assistant Craig Ramsay, will face Finland, the Russians, Sweden, Canada or Denmark in the semifinals on Friday. Slovakia is in the semi-finals of the Olympics for the first time since 2010.
“It’s amazing that this is happening,” Slafkovsky said. “I can’t wait to play the semi-finals.”
The United States was eliminated in a quarterfinal shootout for the second straight Olympics without NHL players. The 2018 team was eliminated by the Czech Republic.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow, it really is, losing any way you want,” Quinn said. “With no disrespect to Slovakia or anyone, we felt so good about the direction of our team and the way we played.”
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