Ilya Kovalchuk, Russian Athletes Cruise Past USA in 2018 Olympics Hockey

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistFebruary 17, 2018

Russian athlete Ilya Kovalchuk (71) celebrates with Sergei Andronov (11) after scoring a goal during the second period of the preliminary round of the men's hockey game at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Julio Cortez/Associated Press

The Olympic Athletes from Russia imposed their will in a 4-0 men's hockey win over the United States in Group B play at the 2018 Winter Olympics on Saturday. 

After taking a 1-0 lead at the end of the first 20 minutes, the Russian athletes put the game away with two goals in the second period. Ilya Kovalchuk delivered the big blow, scoring with 0.2 seconds remaining before intermission that increased Team USA's deficit to 3-0.

In two games since being upset by Slovakia in the opening game, the Olympic Athletes from Russia have outscored Slovenia and the United States by a combined score of 12-2.  

Team USA has looked sluggish throughout group play. The Americans blew a 2-0 lead in the opener against Slovenia, allowing three goals between the third period and overtime to start the Olympics on a sour note. 

Ryan Donato was able to get things going against Slovakia, scoring both goals in a 2-1 win to save the United States from losing its first two Olympic games for the first time since 1984. 

Saturday's showing against the Russian athletes was a lopsided affair. USA goalie Ryan Zapolski was a virtual unknown coming into the Olympics, but head coach Tony Granato has gone all-in on the 31-year-old. 

"If your goalie's nice and calm and confident and relaxed back there, your team plays like his personality in a lot of different situations," Granato told reporters about Zapolski prior to the Olympics. "That's one of the other things that we really liked from a staff perspective as we watched him all year is his calmness. He's deserved this opportunity to make this team."

Stephen Whyno of the Associated Press noted the dilemma Granato was facing once the Russian athletes took a 4-0 lead in the third period:

There was no miracle to be found for the United States against the Russians this time around, though the NHL on NBC Sports attempted to bring some of Herb Brooks' magic into this game:

Kovalchuk was the offensive hero of the game for the Olympic Athletes from Russia. He scored two goals in a span of two minutes between the end of the second period and start of the third.

ESPN's Greg Wyshynski offered this amusing take about Kovalchuk seemingly in response to the Brooks GIF:

The Russian athletes also got a stellar showing from goalie Vasily Koshechkin. He stopped all 29 shots from the United States after allowing five goals in the past two games. 

By bouncing back after that opening-game loss, the Russian squad won Group B with a total of six points and earned an automatic bye into the quarterfinal round. 

Team USA will be forced to play in a qualification playoff game on Tuesday to keep its hopes of earning an Olympic medal for the first time since 2010 alive. 

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