The United States is faring quite well in the sport of hockey during the 2014 Winter Olympics.
The men started off their quest for a gold medal with a bang, dispatching a tough Slovakian opponent that was stocked with NHL talent in a 7-1 rout on Thursday. The women secured a spot in the semifinals, although they did lose to Canada in what may have been a gold-medal preview match.
Fortunately for American hockey enthusiasts, there is plenty of puck left in Sochi, and it seems that Team USA isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Let’s take a look at the schedule for the both the men and women wearing the Stars and Stripes this February in Russia, plus make some predictions on how they will finish in their respective events.
Women’s Team Schedule and Predictions
|Team USA Women's Ice Hockey Schedule - 2014 Winter Olympics|
|Date||Game||Time (ET)||Live TV/Result|
|Mon, Feb. 17||TBD vs. United States||7:30 a.m. or noon||NBCSN or MSNBC|
|Thurs, Feb. 20||Gold-Medal Match||Noon||NBC|
The United States women have locked up a bye in the eight-team tournament, posting two wins and one loss in preliminary play.
They opened with a 3-1 win over Finland and obliterated Sweden 9-0 in the second game before faltering to Canada 3-2 in a meaningless third game. However, as is the usual when these two fierce competitors meet, there was no shortage of controversy.
Canada scored a go-ahead goal on a questionable call, which occurred when the puck slipped past the crease after the whistle was blown. The referees determined that the whistle was incorrect, which afforded the Canadians a 2-1 lead that they would not relinquish.
Because of the loss, Team USA finished just behind Team Canada in Group A. Both the Americans and their undefeated neighbors to the north earned byes and will not participate in the quarterfinals.
The Americans are enjoying some much-needed rest and will have to wait to find out which opponent they will play and when. However, with the dominance it has displayed thus far in the Winter Games, it would be downright surprising for the United States to falter at any point before the gold-medal game.
Expect the U.S. women to blitz right past their semifinal opponent and march into a finals rematch with Canada.
Gold-Medal Match Prediction: Team USA 3 – Team Canada 2
Men’s Team Schedule and Predictions
|Team USA Men's Ice Hockey Schedule - 2014 Winter Olympics|
|Date||Game||Time (ET)||Live TV/Result|
|Thu, Feb. 13||Slovakia vs. United States||7:30 a.m.||USA 7 – SVK 1|
|Sat, Feb. 15||United States vs. Russia||7:30 a.m.||NBCSN|
|Sun, Feb. 16||Slovenia vs. United States||7:30 a.m.||NBCSN|
The U.S. men’s opener could not have gone better, especially considering it was the first time many of them have played together on the bigger international rink.
Slovakia stood no chance after the Americans poured in six goals during the second period alone, slamming the door shut and rattling two goalies in a span of 13 minutes, 51 seconds.
Paul Stastny, who scored two goals during this onslaught, spoke about how everything just clicked for Team USA, per The Associated Press (via ESPN): "For the first time on the big ice for most of us, I thought we did pretty well. Our strengths are our puck possession and our speed, and we were really able to use both of them. All four lines just kind of clicked, and so did our D-men."
Team USA’s captain Zach Parise echoed those sentiments, admitting that it felt good to get the nerves and anxiety out of the way that come with starting a new tournament on foreign soil, according to Barry Svrluga of The Washington Post: "There’s always a lot of nerves and anxiousness to start these tournaments. For us to come out most importantly with a win but a pretty convincing win makes you feel good."
It was the perfect warm-up ahead of the United States’ big showdown with host Russia on Saturday. That will be the marquee matchup of the group stage at the 2014 Winter Olympics, with years of bad blood between these two nations sure to boil over during an intense rivalry contest.
Russia looked a bit more vulnerable than the Americans in its opener, giving up two goals to Slovenia in a 5-2 win. Both sides are stuffed with NHL talent, and it should be one for the ages, so make sure you tune in at 7:30 a.m. ET on Saturday morning to watch these two rivals clash.
It’s the can’t-miss event of group play and may be one of the best hockey matches of the entire tournament.
Prediction: Team USA 2 – Russia 1