Shooting disaster sends Americans on an early exit

BEIJING — Minutes after failing to score in the shootout as the Americans had the last chance to stay alive at the Olympics, captain Andy Miele took off his gloves to wipe the tears from his eyes.

“I’m just sad it’s over,” he said.

With a bad rebound in the last minute of regulation time that became the tying goal and an unsuccessful shootout, the United States are excluded from the men’s hockey tournament at the Beijing Games after a shocking 3-2 loss to Slovakia in the quarters. final on Wednesday. The previously undefeated USA, who took the top seed in the knockout round and looked set for a deep run, instead received the same result as the 2018 group at the last Olympics without players from the NHL.

“This one is going to sting a bit,” veteran defender Steven Kampfer said. “I thought we were the better team for the majority of the game. You’re a bit short.”

Canada exited the tournament a few hours later with a 2-0 loss to Sweden. It’s the first time since 2006 that neither the United States nor Canada have qualified for the final four at the Olympics.

Slovakia face Finland, who took care of Switzerland with a 5-1 victory, and Sweden face the Russians, who beat Denmark 3-1. Sweden, Finland and the Russians were also in the semi-finals in Turin 16 years ago.

Eight years after TJ Oshie earned the nickname “TJ Sochi” for his shootout exploits against Russia, there was no such magic this time around. Brendan Brisson, Sean Farrell, Matt Knies, Nathan Smith and Miele all stood empty in the shootout.

The United States also went 0 for 5 in the shootout loss to the Czech Republic in Pyeongchang four years ago.

“It’s a tough situation with the game relying on you,” Miele said. “I wanted to score, I didn’t and it stinks. I don’t know what else to say.”

Strauss Mann allowed just one goal from Slovakia’s five shots, Peter Cehlarik beat him with a move he practiced during the warm-up and expected to surprise the goalkeeper. On the bench during the shootout, 17-year-old Slovakia forward Juraj Slafkovsky told Cehlarik he thought he would score when it was his turn.

“Don’t worry,” Cehlarik told him in Slovak. “Backhand, forehand and I’ll score.”

After goalkeeper Patrik Rybar denied Miele for his last save of 38 he made in regulation time, extra time and a shootout, assistant Jan Pardavy embraced Slovakia coach Craig Ramsay and Slovakia celebrated its first trip to the Olympic semi-finals since 2010 in Vancouver.

“It’s exciting,” said Ramsay, who played 14 NHL seasons and spent more than two decades in the league as an assistant. “Even when it came in, when Cehlarik scored and Pardo almost broke me in half, I still said, ‘Did we win? Did we win that thing?’ Because you lose track after five shootouts. It was so exciting. I know how they feel and I feel it.

Americans felt a mix of sadness, regret and acceptance over the random rebounds that can decide a hockey game. They were the only team to win all three group stage games in regular time, trailed just 11 minutes the entire tournament and still saw their medal dreams dashed.

“We were kidding actually, we still haven’t lost a game, really – we lost a shootout,” coach David Quinn said. “That’s the frustrating part.”

International rules call for 10 minutes of 3-on-3 overtime followed by a five-man shootout, even in the round of 16. While lamenting the cruelty of being eliminated in a 1-on-1 skill competition, Quinn and his players stressed that the game should never have come to this.

After Nick Abruzzese tied the score in the final minute of the first half and Sam Hentges put the United States midway through the second, there were plenty of opportunities to build on the lead and have a little more leeway. The Americans got four powerplays, including three in the third and 1:22 from time at 3-on-3, and didn’t score on any of them.

The closest was Matty Beniers’ shot to the post.

“We get the 5-on-3 and that was a real game-changer,” Quinn said. “When you have a 5v3 in that scenario and you don’t capitalize on it, you give that other team a lot of hope, and they capitalized.”

Slovakia capitalized with the net empty for an extra forward when captain Marek Hrivik put his stick on the puck that was loose in the crease and put it up with 43.7 seconds left in regulation time.

“The rebounds are coming,” said Mann, who made 34 saves in regulation and overtime. “It was nobody’s fault. It’s hockey.”

David Warsofsky (5) of the United States looks at the scoreboard as Slovak players celebrate behind him after a men’s hockey quarter-final match at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022, in Beijing. Slovakia won 3-2 in a shootout. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Photo Slovak players celebrate after beating the United States 3-2 in a shootout in a men’s hockey quarter-final match at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022, in Beijing. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Photo Aaron Ness (42) of the United States walks off the ice as Slovakian players celebrate behind him after a men’s hockey quarter-final at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022, in Beijing. Slovakia won 3-2 in a shootout. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Photo Slovakia’s Peter Cehlarik (34) celebrates after scoring the winning goal past USA goalie Strauss Mann (31) in a shootout during a men’s quarter-final hockey game at the 2022 Winter Olympics , on Wednesday, February 16, 2022, in Beijing. Slovakia won 3-2. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Photo Andy Miele (51) of the United States walks off the ice after the United States lost to Slovakia in a quarterfinal men’s hockey game at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Wednesday February 16, 2022, in Beijing. Slovakia won 3-2 in a shootout. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Photo USA goaltender Strauss Mann (31) walks off the ice following USA’s loss to Slovakia in a quarterfinal men’s hockey game at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, February 16, 2022, in Beijing. Slovakia won 3-2 in a shootout. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Photo Slovak players celebrate after beating the United States 3-2 in a shootout in a men’s hockey quarter-final match at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022, in Beijing. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Photo Slovak players celebrate after beating the United States 3-2 in a shootout in a men’s hockey quarter-final match at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022, in Beijing. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Photo Slovakia’s Marek Hrivikl, right, is hugged by Peter Cehlarik (34) after Hrivikl scored a goal against the United States in a men’s quarter-final hockey match at the 2022 Winter Olympics, on Wednesday February 16, 2022, in Beijing. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)