GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA – Pavel Francouz stopped all five shooters and Petr Koukal scored the shootout winner as the Czech Republic eliminated the United States from the Olympics with a 3-2 victory in the quarterfinals Wednesday.
Jan Kovar and Tomas Kundratek scored in regulation for the Czech Republic, which was fresher after winning its group and getting a bye into the quarterfinals. The U.S. looked fatigued after facing Slovakia in the qualification round a day earlier and was outshot 29-20.
Ryan Donato and Jim Slater scored for the U.S, which again was led by its youngest players, including speedster Troy Terry. U.S. goaltender Ryan Zapolski allowed three goals on 29 shots and one in the shotoout, while Francouz stopped 18 in regulation and overtime.
“It’s tough when it comes down to the shootout,” U.S. captain Brian Gionta said. “It’s tough to swallow.”
Koukal was the only player to score in overtime. Chris Bourque, Ryan Donato, Marc Arcobello, Terry and Bobby Butler couldn’t beat Francouz. Just before the shootout, Sochi Olympics shootout hero T.J. Oshie of the U.S. tweeted his support for Terry, but Francouz was able to save a multiple-fake try by the University of Denver player.
“Sorry to let him down on that on,” Terry said. “But the goalie made a good save.”
Said Francouz: “He kind of lost the puck so I got lucky there.”
Terry continued skating around opponents as he has done all tournament, and 6:20 in gave the U.S. a 1-0 lead. Terry sliced down the left wing and dished it to Donato, who used a double Czech Republic screen to beat Francouz.
“He’s always been someone that can raise his game in the big games,” Chuck Terry, Troy’s father, said. “That part’s not that surprising. Just the overwhelming thing of him being at the Olympics, it’s pretty cool.”
The goal was Donato’s fifth in five games, passing his father and Harvard coach, Ted, who scored four for the U.S. at the 1992 Olympics in Albertville.
The Czechs tied it 1-1 at 15:12 after 39-year-old U.S. captain — and natural winger — Brian Gionta lost the faceoff clean and Jan Kolar got it back to Kovar, who beat Zapolski from long range with a screen in front for the kind of goal that been common at this tournament.
A parade to the penalty box by the U.S. beginning with a boarding call on John McCarthy at the end of the first made the opening half of the second a one-sided game. On the power play and at even strength, the Czechs tilted the ice on the Americans and hemmed them in the zone, scoring a predictable goal from Kundratek 8:14 in to go up 2-1.
Just over two minutes later with the U.S. on another penalty kill and looking in serious trouble, Brian O’Neill flashed his speed once again and found Slater on the rush for the former Atlanta Thrashers forward’s first goal of the tournament. The short-handed tying goal 10:23 in was the Americans’ first shot of the second period.
The teams traded chances in the third period, none better than O’Neill clanking a shot off the crossbar with just under three minutes left on an odd-man rush. The U.S. got a power play at the end of regulation and into overtime but never got a shot on net.
With 35 seconds left in overtime, U.S. defenseman Bobby Sanguinetti’s shot hit Francouz and sat in the crease, but the goalie was able to cover up.
“We couldn’t get the bounces,” Donato said.
OAR routs Norway
The Olympic Athletes from Russia swept aside Norway 6-1 on Wednesday to set up a Olympics semifinal against the Czech Republic.
OAR charged to a 3-0 lead at the end of the first period, outshooting Norway 19-2, and remained in control throughout the game as chants of “Red Machine” and “Russia” echoed around the half-empty Gangneung Hockey Center. Nikita Gusev finished with a goal and two assists, while Slava Voynov had a goal and an assist.
Russia outshot Norway 32-14 and the Norwegians at times looked very much like a team that had played a day earlier.
“We are a very hungry group of guys,” Russian forward Ilya Kovalchuk said. “Next game will be the biggest one.”
After the disappointment of losing in the quarterfinals on home ice in Sochi four years ago, the Olympic Athletes from Russia — as they’re called due to International Olympic Committee sanctions over doping — are now guaranteed to play for a medal. They will play against the Czech Republic on Friday.
“Our dream’s still on,” Russian captain Pavel Datysuk said. “We are in a tournament where we are the top favorite, but we need to improve.”
No Russian team has won a medal since 2002, with the last gold won by the post-Soviet Unified Team in 1992, also under the Olympic flag.
Russian goaltender Vasily Koshechkin allowed one goal off 14 Norwegian shots.
The Norwegians were playing in their first quarterfinal, a day after earning their country’s first Olympic win since 1994 against Slovenia. The Russians had two days of rest after beating the U.S. in the preliminary round.
Kovalchuk said the plan was to overwhelm the tired Norwegians from the start: “They’d spent a lot of energy so we had the job of shooting as much as possible.”
The Russians took the lead midway through the first period when Mikhail Grigorenko hit a shot top-shelf past Norwegian goaltender Lars Haugen.
Less than five minutes later, Gusev made it 2-0 on a rebound during a power play, and former Los Angeles Kings defenseman Voynov closed out the period with his first goal of the tournament, a wrist shot assisted by Gusev.
Norway’s Alexander Bonsaksen capitalized on a Russian defensive error to make it 3-1 in the second, but the Russians soon responded with goals from Sergei Kalinin and Nikita Nesterov, whose shot ricocheted in off Bonsaksen. Ivan Telegin scored his first goal of the tournament, and Russia’s sixth of the game, with seven minutes remaining in the third off a Grigorenko pass.