The action on the ice is heating up in Sochi as the 2014 Winter Olympics rolls along with hockey starting to take center stage.
After a historic battle between the U.S. and Russia earlier in the tournament, it appeared Russia might have run out of fuel early on against a weak Norway team. But the Russians surged late and pulled out a convincing 4-0 win over the Norwegians to continue their run.
While the Russian men finished up a rout of Norway late, the women's team didn't fare quite as well against Finland. A 4-0 loss put an end to a tough Olympics for the Russian women and gave the Finns something to celebrate as they capped off a disappointing tournament of their own.
With Day 11 of the hockey action officially coming to a close, here's a look at the results and a breakdown of the standings for both the men and women.
The men's action on Tuesday got off to a strong start as Slovenia crushed the Austrians in a 4-0 rout. But it would be just the first of many smackdowns on the men's side of the bracket.
Slovenia's surprising run to the quarterfinals is an amazing one, as Kevin Allen of USA Today puts it into perspective:
What Slovenia has done would be like the state of Maine gathering all of its best hockey players and then competing in the Olympics against the likes of the USA, Russia, Canada and others.
The country has a population of about 2 million and fewer than 1,000 registered adult and younger players. There are seven ice rinks in the entire nation, and two are uncovered.
That type of route for a country that limited in ice hockey talent is astonishing, but can it match up with the mighty Swedes? The No. 1 team in the world awaits them, but the 2-2 team might just have one more upset in the tank.
The aforementioned Russian domination of Norway came late in the game. But with four goals and a strong defensive effort to shut out the Norwegians, it was still a convincing outcome for the host country.
Advancing to the quarterfinal is not exactly the goal for the host country, as the Russians are looking to steal the gold medal away from the favorites in the field like the U.S., Canada and Sweden.
Alex Ovechkin, who hasn't scored a goal for the Russians in three games, spoke about the atmosphere for the Russians, per Greg Beacham of the Associated Press, via ABC News:
It is do-or-die games right now. We don’t have much time to prepare ... but I’m pretty sure everybody on Finland is going to be ready, and we’re going to be ready as well.
We scored a couple lucky goals. Everybody knows we have such a good, talented team on offence. We just try to keep our energy and keep our emotion. It’s working, and (on Wednesday) we’re going to have emotions and strength for the quarterfinals.
The Russians will now have to face off against a Finland team that advanced after taking just an overtime loss against Canada in the preliminary round. With seven points and a potent offensive attack, expect the Finns to give Russia a stiff test in the quarters.
Here's a look at the current rankings for the men's bracket of the Olympics after Day 11:
|Group A||Wins||OT Wins||OT Losses||Losses|
|Group B||Wins||OT Wins||OT Losses||Losses|
|Group C||Wins||OT Wins||OT Losses||Losses|
sochi2014.com (*Advanced to Quarterfinal)
In the upset column, Switzerland couldn't ring the bell against Latvia, who hadn't won a game coming into the showdown.
Can the U.S. win the gold?
Latvia used two early goals to pull away from the Swiss and never looked back as they clinched the third qualification contest to advance and take on Canada in the semifinals after a 3-1 win.
The Czech Republic jumped out to a commanding lead in the first two periods over Slovakia, but it nearly wasn't enough. The Slovaks staged a late comeback in the third period to bring the score to 4-3, but would be undone by an empty-netter from Tomas Plekanec to secure the win for the Czechs.
With the win, the Czechs earn the right to play the U.S. Thanks to a little extra rest and the confidence that comes along with going 3-0 in the preliminary round, Team USA should be set up perfectly for a route of the Czech Republic.
The quarterfinal match will take place at Noon ET on USA Network. While they may be outmatched coming in, Ales Hemsky of the Czech Republic believes his team can pull off the upset, according to Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times:
A potent scoring attack and stingy defense thus far has driven the Americans to this point. But with a Czech team coming in on a roll and dealing with adversity already, it could shape up to be a thrilling match.
Hemsky along with Jaromir Jagr will look to lead the Czechs to an upset, but Team USA will be up to the task after several big wins already in the bag. It's win or go home for the Americans, and a win could qualify them for a semifinals appearance and the right to contend for at least a medal.
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