Team USA hockey wakes up, moves on to play Czechs

Eric Adelson

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – They’re cursing Ryan Donato’s name in Bratislava.

The Harvard junior scored his third and fourth goals against Slovakia on Tuesday, launching the American men on their way to the quarterfinals with a 5-1 win in their first elimination game.

Team USA will face the Czechs on Wednesday – same time, same place.

Donato scored both goals for the U.S. against Slovakia in the team’s only other win of the tournament, and he opened the floodgates in the rematch with two lovely plays in one second-period stretch. First, he found Troy Terry streaking up the middle with a pass that nearly led to a score. When Terry’s backhand deke went wide, Donato found the puck, curled into the left circle and finished it himself.

That seemed to wake up the Americans, who slogged through an uneventful first period before picking up their forecheck. James Wisniewski scored on a one-timer from Terry only a short time after Donato’s goal, and Terry got another assist before the end of the second when he spotted Mark Arcobello alone in front of the Slovak net.

Ryan Donato (16), of the United States, celebrates with Mark Arcobello (26) after scoring a goal against Slovakia during the second period of the qualification round of the men’s hockey game at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. (AP)

The story of these Games has been the college kids: Donato, Terry (Denver) and Jordan Greenway (Boston University). When the U.S. has found momentum, it’s come from them. Donato and Terry are 21 and 20, respectively. Greenway just turned 21 last week.

Goaltender Ryan Zapolski, a relative fossil at 31, was far stronger on Tuesday than he was against the Russians. He had multiple key saves in the first period and withstood a heavy hit in the second that had him down in the ice for several minutes.

Garrett Roe scored in the third to ice the game, on a pretty setup from James O’Neill and Broc Little, and Donato added another late goal.

The question now is whether the youth movement can persist against better competition. The Russians bowled over the Americans in their preliminary round match, and that is who will likely await Team USA on Friday in the semifinals should it get past the Czechs.

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