For their Quarterfinal matchup the United States would play Slovakia. The United States finished first in Group A. They finished the group stage with a record of 3-0-0. That was the first time they did that since Vancouver 2010. USA beat Germany in their last game 3-2. Slovakia finished third in Group C. They had a record of 1-2-0 in the group stage. They defeated Germany 4-0 in the Play-off Qualification round to make it to the Quarterfinals. The winner would move on to the Semifinals and is guaranteed to play in medal game.
Slovakia scored first. They took the lead 11 minutes into the game. The United States would tie it with less than a minute to go in the first period. Nick Abruzzese would score. Matty Beniers and Steven Kampfer would get the assists. The game was tied 1-1 going into the second period.
The United States would take the lead 8 minutes into the second period. Sam Hentges scored the goal. Nicke Perbix and Nathan Smith got the assists. The United States and Slovakia would take matching penalties for slashing. In the last minute of play in the second period. Slovakia would take a penalty for delay of game. The United States would take a 2-1 lead into the third period.
Slovakia took a tripping penalty. Slovakia took another delay of game penalty. Slovakia took a high sticking penalty. Slovakia would pull their goalie. Slovakia tied the game with under 45 seconds to go in the game. The score was 2-2 going into overtime.
Neither team scored in overtime. The game went into a shootout. Slovakia scored the only goal of the shootout. The final score was 2-3 Slovakia.
I wrote the following immediately following the game last night:
I don’t 100% know what to say. I know how I feel. I just don’t know what to say without punching a wall and swearing eighty times in a row. Anger, sadness and disappointment all flow through me right now. I’m mad. I get mad all the time when I see results like this. Throughout the game I was upset at the officiating. They let a lot of stuff slide. On the final play of overtime, they could have called hooking, slashing or tripping. Did they? Of course not. Some of it really upset me. How come we couldn’t clear the puck at the end of the game? Sadness. Sadness is like the bridge between anger and disappointment for me right now. It’s not like the kind of sadness of where I sit and cry. It’s the kind of sadness where I hang my head and stare at the floor for a while. It’s the kind of sad where I don’t want to watch the rest of the Olympics. It’s the kind of sad where I’m depressed for two weeks, don’t talk about it, then for the next four years be pessimistic about the United States men’s ice hockey team. No matter how well the United States plays hockey everything for the next four years will come back to this. I think USA Hockey will try to stop talking about this as soon as possible. As soon as the Olympics are over I don’t think the media or USA Hockey will talk about this at all until the next Olympics. Disappointment. I can sit here and complain about the officials or the IIHF or even USA Hockey. The reality is that I am most disappointed in our team’s performance. They just couldn’t find the back of the net. They couldn’t clear the puck in the last minute of regulation. They made one too many mistakes which is disappointing. I was also disappointed by the lack of urgency to score another goal after they went up by one goal. In my head, I built this team up. I expected this team to at the very least walk away with a medal. Part of my disappointment is that I worked myself up and got disappointed. At this point I wonder if I will always be disappointed by the United States Men’s ice hockey team.
Right now, my mind is racing and it’s a what if game. If anything changed would it have helped? Who knows. What happened, happened. Nothing I do can change the outcome of this game. Will that stop me from thinking what if this or that happened? No, it won’t.
This team accomplished so much and yet now it means nothing. USA Hockey and the media is going to move on as quickly as they can from this. USA Hockey only cares about winners. Winners bring in money. Casual fans won’t care unless the United States is in the gold medal game. Now that USA is out most Americans are done with Olympic hockey. The Women have a chance at gold, but that won’t bring in the same viewership, money, and growth like if the Men played for gold. I’m not mad about that. It just is what it is. I am just using it as a reason that USA Hockey will want to move on as quickly from this as possible. I’ll still watch the Women’s gold medal game. I’ll support hockey no matter who is playing.
People say it’s just a game. People will, do, and have said that I am too emotionally invested in this. Honestly the people who say that are outsiders. They don’t understand that hockey isn’t just a game. It’s a way of life. Hockey is a way of life. When someone represents their country, it’s taken to a whole new level. When a player is chosen to represent the United States, they represent all of us. You, me, the mailman all of us. To me that means a lot. I want my fellow countrymen to be successful. When they accomplish things, I feel like we as a country accomplished this. I feel pride in my homeland. When they fail I feel like we as a nation failed and I take that somewhat personally. I probably shouldn’t as there is nothing I can do but I do. It’s not just a game. It’s people of all backgrounds coming together under one banner to support one team. Our team. The United States.
Why do we play? Why do we get up at 5am to be at the rink at 6am? Why do we play for teams that are 6 hours away? Why do we travel across the country to play on a frozen lake? Why do we play games at midnight on weeknights with our buddies? Why are we the only ones in the stands at a beer league game? Why do we design jerseys for our favorite teams? Why do we put our highlights on the internet? Passion. We do this for the sport we love. The United states men’s ice hockey team represents that. At least to me it does. I don’t think I am the only one who thinks like that either.
The United States has been eliminated. Slovakia will be moving on to the Semifinals. Slovakia will play in a medal game.