Friday, February 14, 2014

U.S. Men Open Games with 7-1 Blitz of Slovakia

The U.S. Men's Olympic Hockey team is off to a good start after recording a 7-1 thrashing of Slovakia on Wednesday in Sochi, Russia in the Olympic opener for both clubs.

The Americans scored six unanswered goals in the second stanza, with two coming off the stick of Paul Stastny (Denver), while Phil Kessel (Minnesota) recorded a goal and two assists and David Backes (Minnesota State) and Ryan Kesler (Ohio State) also scored for the U.S. Goaltender Jonathan Quick (Massachusetts), the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as MVP of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs, made 22 saves in his Olympic debut.

Stastny is one of several players on the all-NHL American roster who has New Jersey connections. He spent part of his childhood in the Garden State while his father, two-time Olympian and Hall of Famer Peter, played for the Devils. John Carlson of Colonia opened the scoring on Wednesday with a slapshot from the right circle past Slovak starter Jaroslav Halak, while Middletown native and Christian Brothers Academy product James van Riemsdyk (New Hampshire) picked up an assist on Kessel's goal.

Carlson is one of just five players on this year's rookie-laden American Olympic roster who didn't play at least one season of college hockey. A team-high four players formerly skated for Wisconsin (Joe Pavelski, Ryan McDonagh, Ryan Suter and Derek Stepan), while Pavelski, Stastny, Brooks Orpik (Boston College), Paul Martin (Minnesota), Kevin Shattenkirk (Boston University) and Justin Faulk (Minnesota-Duluth) all won NCAA championships in their college careers. One player, goaltender Ryan Miller (Michigan State), won the 2001 Hobey Baker Memorial Award as the top player in NCAA Men's Division I hockey.

The U.S. now faces host Russia on Saturday  before taking on newcomer Slovenia on Sunday. Both of those games are slated for 7:30 a.m. ET. Russia opened the tournament yesterday with a 5-2 win over Slovenia, but needed two third-period goals to pull away after taking an early 2-0 lead.

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