Slovenia came from two goals down in the third period to beat the United States 3-2 in overtime on Wednesday in the opening round of the men’s Olympic hockey tournament.
A team who have earned a reputation for punching above their weight, Slovenia captain Jan Mursak tied the game with under two minutes to go by tapping home a rebound and scored the winner less than a minute into sudden-death overtime.
“I’m proud of my guys, I’m proud of the team,” said Mursak, who played sporadically with the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings between 2010 and 2012.
“Hopefully, we can start looking to the next game and surprise somebody else.”
The US struck first late in the opening period when Garrett Roe kept a loose puck in the Slovenian zone, carried it behind the net and fed Brian O’Neill who was streaking into the slot. O’Neill fired a wrist shot that beat Slovenia goaltender Gasper Kroselj on his stick side.
In the second period Jordan Greenway, the first African American to play for the US men’s Olympic hockey team, tapped in a puck that popped loose from a scrum in front of Kroselj.
“It was exciting to get my first, but it would have been much better to get a win tonight,” said Greenway, one of four American college players in the US team.
Slovenia, ranked 15th by the International Ice Hockey Federation, got on the board in the third period when Blaz Gregorc threaded a wrist shot through a crowd in front of US goalkeeper Ryan Zapolski.
A team who never quit, the Slovenians fought their way into the knockout round in Sochi four years ago and finished seventh.
The Olympic hockey tournament is being played without NHL players for the first time since the Lillehammer Games in 1994 after the league and International Olympic Committee failed to agree on players’ travel and insurance costs.
That has left teams to build their rosters from emerging local talent or from players in other professional leagues, largely from Europe.
The Slovenians next face the Olympic Athletes from Russia, who lost to Slovakia 3-2 on Wednesday. The Americans play the Slovaks. (Reporting by Dan Burns, editing by Ed Osmond)
Slovenia down Russia 3-2
A third-period goal by Peter Ceresnak gave Slovakia a shock 3-2 win over the Olympic Athletes from Russia on Wednesday as the gold medal favourites squandered a two-goal lead.
Ceresnak capitalised on delay of a game penalty taken by Ivan Telegin, unleashing a slap shot from the point that beat goaltender Vasili Koshechkin to his left with just over 10 minutes to play.
The Russians drew first blood as Vladislav Gavrikov and Kirill Kaprizov found the back of the net in the opening four minutes to jump in front 2-0.
But after a lightning start, the OAR lost their composure as Slovakia hit back with a pair of goals on four shots, including a breakaway by Martin Bakos.
After a scoreless second period, Slovakia took advantage of sloppy play by from the Olympic Athletes from Russia in the third as Ceresnak collected the winner on a powerplay off a second delay of game penalty.
The Russians next face Slovenia, surprise 3-2 winners over the United States, on Friday while Slovakia play the Americans. (Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Steve Keating and Ed Osmond)