The United States was among the top half-dozen favorites entering the men’s Olympic hockey tournament, so reaching the quarterfinals was pretty much expected. But a win tonight (10 p.m., CNBC), against a Czech Republic team that was undefeated in the preliminary round, would amp up the excitement three-fold.
Do you believe in improbables?
The Czechs are the best matchup here for the Americans mainly because the others who advanced directly to this round were Sweden, the Russian Athletes and Canada. The United States is coming off its best showing of the tournament, a 5-1 win over Slovakia in Monday’s play-in round. They’ll be playing their second game in two days.
“I think people saw [Monday] we have a very fast team and a team that can play good hockey,” said Troy Terry, who had three assists against Slovakia. “So we have a lot of belief in our team and we’re excited to keep going.”
The winner of the U.S.-Czech will get the winner of Russia-Norway on Friday at 2:30 a.m. or 7 a.m.
The five-goal outburst by Team USA came after it had scored just four goals in the previous three games. The roster is an assortment of college players and old pros.
The captain is 39-year-old Brian Gionta, a former Flyers nemesis who still holds the Devils single-season record with 48 goals in 2005-06. He should expect an NHL offer after the Olympics. The goaltender is 31-year-old Ryan Zapolski, who was the ECHL MVP six years ago and who’s currently playing in the Russian KHL.
The top line is a blend of Terry (University of Denver) and Ryan Donato (Harvard) with Mark Acobello, who bounced around so much that he played for four NHL teams in the 2015-16 season.
“You could just see the talent they’ve got,” Arcobello said of his linemates. “They look like pros. They don’t look like college players. They’re poised, and they do the right things. They’re smart players. So, I knew right away they were going to be pretty good.”
What the group lacks in star quality — like NHLers Johnny Gaudreau and Shayne Gostisbehere — it makes up for in likability. Who doesn’t love a good underdog to root for now that it’s down to just the heavy hitters?
This isn’t the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” crew, but a win Tuesday night would be interesting. Surely, stories about the spirit of team architect Jim Johannson, who died suddenly in his sleep in January, will become a greater part of the narrative.
And if they lose, that’s OK, too. They tried.
Would rather have Gostisbehere playing for the Flyers now anyhow.
MEN’S HOCKEY SCHEDULE
USA vs. Czech Republic, 10:10 p.m. (CNBC)
Russian Athletes vs. Norway, 2:30 a.m. (NBCSN)
Sweden vs. Germany, 7 a.m. (NBCSN/USA)
Canada vs. Finland, 7 a.m. (NBCSN/USA)
*Friday (2:30 a.m. & 7 a.m. EST)
USA/Czech vs. Russia/Norway (NBCSN)
Sweden/Germany vs. Canada/Finland (NBCSN)
Bronze: 6:30 a.m. (NBCSN)
Gold: 11 p.m. (NBCSN)
WOMEN’S HOCKEY SCHEDULE
Bronze: Finland vs. Russia, 2:30 a.m. (USA)
Gold: USA vs. Canada, 11 p.m. (NBCSN)
Other Tuesday night highlights
*Lindsey Vonn will try to get back on the medal stand at Tuesday night’s women’s downhill competition, where she is one of the favorites. Vonn won this event at the 2010 Games. She missed the 2014 Olympics with a knee injury. Vonn, who had a late stumble and finished sixth in the super-G, has two more races left in her Olympics career. The downhill and the combined, which is Wednesday. At 33, it’d be cool to see her get at least one more gold.
*Vonn chose the No. 7 bib in order to run after Italy’s Sofia Goggia, who is ranked No. 1 in the world in downhill. “I’m picking right behind her so I would like to start behind her,” said Vonn, who is ranked No. 2 in this event. “I like knowing my competitors, what times they get, how they’re skiing.”
*The women’s individual figure skating short program is Tuesday night. NBCSN will have early coverage an hour before NBC kicks in at 8 p.m. The network will weave in the women’s downhill and other events. Keep the remote handy as NBCSN is listing only the figure skating for tonight.
*Bradie Tennell won the U.S. championships, so she’s the headliner, but remember it was Mirai Nagusa who landed that triple axel last week in team competition. She’s the only American to nail the jump in Olympics. Big deal. I once landed a shot of Three Wisemen and never left the ground.
*And for those nightowls among us, Finland will play the Athletes from Russia for the women’s hockey bronze medal at 2:30 a.m.
*The highly anticipated USA-Canada women’s gold medal rematch is Wednesday night at 11 p.m. Sharpen your elbows.
Tomorrow I will push out of the starting gate in what will most likely be my last Olympic Downhill race. I’m trying to enjoy the moment as much as I can and I am thankful to share this race with such amazing teammates. I know everyone expects a lot from me, and I expect even…
— lindsey vonn (@lindseyvonn) February 20, 2018
Ladies’ Figure Skating Odds
|Evgeniia Medvedeva, Russia||1-1|
|Alina Zagitova, Russia||3-2|
|Kaetlyn Osmond , Canada||9-1|
|Maria Sotskova, Russia||12-1|
|Carolina Kostner , Italy||16-1|
|Satoshi Miyahara, Japan||16-1|
|Gabrielle Daleman, Canada||16-1|
|Elizabeth Tursynbaeva, Kazakhstan||80-1|
|Karen Chen, USA||150-1|
|Choi Da-bin, South Korea||150-1|
|Emmi Peltonen, Finland||500-1|
U.S. medalists (12)
Through 12 p.m. Eastern, Tuesday, Feb. 20
Mikaela Shiffrin (skiing/women’s giant slalom)
Shaun White (snowboarding/men’s halfpipe)
Chloe Kim (snowboarding/women’s halfpipe)
Jamie Anderson (snowboarding/women’s slopestyle)
Red Gerard (snowboarding/men’s slopestyle)
Chris Mazdzer (luge/men’s singles)
Nick Goepper (freestyle skiing/men’s slopestyle)
John-Henry Krueger (short-track skating/men’s 1000m)
Maia & Alex Shibutani (figure skating/ice dancing)
Brita Sigourney (freestyle skiing/women’s halfpipe)
Arielle Gold (snowboarding/women’s halfpipe)
U.S. Team (figure skating)
And finally …
Touching moment at the end of South Korea’s loss to Finland in Tuesday’s men’s hockey elimination round.
Overmatched for most of the tournament, the Koreans hung tough against Finland. They scored twice quickly in the second period to make it a one-goal game heading into the third. The Fins eventually regained control and won 5-2.
Afterward, the Koreans carried their flag around the ice at Gangneung Arena saluting their fans. It was the first time Korea had ever competed in hockey at the Olympics and there wasn’t a dry eye out there.
Former NHL journeyman Jim Paek, South Korea’s head coach, was among those who couldn’t contain their emotions.
“That’s a Stanley Cup Champion there, that won as a player with the Pittsburgh Penguins,” observed NBC analyst Keith Jones. “You can see how much it meant to him. That was an incredible moment. You can see why he’s so proud. A lot of the players were crying on the ice, as well.”