Goaltender Strauss Mann made 34 saves and came within 45 seconds of leading the U.S. men’s Olympic hockey team to a berth in the medal round, but the Americans allowed the tying goal and then fell in a shootout to Slovakia by a 3-2 score on Wednesday morning.
Mann, a Greenwich, Conn., native and former University of Michigan captain, played well in the loss, but the U.S. was unable to score when it could have put the game out of reach. The Americans couldn’t capitalize on an advantage in early play, and were denied on several prime scoring chances early. As was the case in their previous two games, they got into an early hole, giving up the first score to Slovakian top draft prospect Juraj Slafkovsky. Harvard forward Nick Abruzzese would tie it on a Matty Beniers (Hingham, Mass.) pass with 45 seconds left in the first on a backhand shot along the ice through the five-hole on goaltender Patrik Rybar.
The U.S. took the lead in the second period on a Sam Hentges goal, but that was it offensively despite a good push at the end of the second frame and some quality scoring chances in the third and 3-on-3 overtime periods after Slovakia tied it with less than 44 seconds left in regulation.
It was another reminder — amid Team USA’s gold-medal drought that dates to 1980 — that once the games go to single elimination, anything can happen. Slovakia, which has an intriguing mix of veteran pro experience and several high-end younger players, got it done along with a fine performance in net from Rybar. After falling behind 2-1, he stopped everything else including all shootout attempts he faced, securing the major upset and sending the U.S. home without a medal.
With the Americans now out of contention for the medal round, let's take a look at five takeaways from their quarterfinal loss.