Olympic Hockey 2018: Reliving Most Exciting Games from Pyeongchang

Gill Clark@@gillclarkyFeatured Columnist IFebruary 26, 2018

GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 25: Coach of OAR Oleg Znarok is celebrated by his players after victory following the Men's Ice Hockey Gold Medal match between Germany and Olympic Athletes from Russia on day sixteen of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Hockey Centre on February 25, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

The ice hockey at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, was once again a highlight of the Winter Games and produced plenty of thrills. The men's event did suffer from a lack of star quality, as the NHL refused to allow its players to compete, but made up for it with some surprise results.

As expected, the Olympic Athletes from Russia claimed gold in the men's event as they secured an overtime win over Germany. Over in the women's event, there was a gold medal for the United States, who beat arch-rivals Canada in a shootout at the Gangneung Hockey Centre.

Here's a look back at some of the most exciting matches from the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.


Slovakia pull off shock in opener

The Olympic Athletes from Russia went into the tournament as hot favourites to claim gold but suffered a shock in their opening game as they were beaten 3-2 by Slovakia. The Russian team started well and were 2-0 up after four minutes, thanks to goals from Vladislav Gavrikov and Kirill Kaprizov.

Slovakia's Peter Ceresnak reacts in the men's preliminary round ice hockey match between Slovakia and Slovenia during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung on February 17, 2018.   / AFP PHOTO / JUNG Yeon-Je
JUNG YEON-JE/Getty Images

However, Slovakia hit back to make it 2-2 through Peter Olvecky and Martin Bakos, and after a goalless second period, Peter Ceresnak scored the winner with a slap shot in the third period. 

It was not just a surprise defeat but a sloppy showing from the Russian team who squandered a two-goal lead and lost their composure after a brilliant start.


United States women gain golden revenge 

The United States claimed revenge over Canada in the final of the women's competition as they secured a first gold medal since the 1998 Nagano Games. Canada had beaten the U.S team in the last two Olympic finals but had to settle for silver in South Korea.

The United States started well and took an early lead with Hilary Knight flicking home the opener. NBC Olympics showed the moment she struck:

NBC Olympics @NBCOlympics

.@TeamUSA STRIKES FIRST! A beautiful redirect by @HilaryKnight puts the @usahockey women up 1-0 in the gold medal game! #WinterOlympics https://t.co/R7Kzi4a9HS https://t.co/kxkPJdlIEL

Canada hit back through Haley Irwin before Marie-Philip Poulin put the team into a 2-1 lead with a long-range strike. Monique Lamoureux-Morando levelled it up with just six minutes of the third period remaining, to send the final into overtime.

Neither team could manage a goal in the extra 20 minutes, which ensured the gold medal would be decided by a nerve-wracking shootout for the first time in women's Olympic history.

Net-minders Maddie Rooney of the U.S team and Canada's Shannon Szabados both made two saves before Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson struck to put the Americans 3-2 up. 

Rooney then saved from Meghan Agosta to hand the United States gold. The team's Twitter account paid tribute to the youngster:

U.S. Olympic Team @TeamUSA

Twenty. TWENTY! @maddie_rooney35, #TeamUSA's goalie, is just 20 years old! She stopped a FOUR TIME OLYMPIAN in her tracks & held her own in the shootout to help secure #GOLD for @USAHockey! UNREAL. https://t.co/foHqOGP4Xh

It was an incredible moment from Rooney who coped with the pressure as the United States turned the tables on Canada.


Germany stun Canada to reach final

The German men's team pulled off a number of brilliant results on their way to the final, and the 4-3 win over Canada was arguably the pick of the bunch. The defending Olympic champions were hot favourites to progress but ended up going home with bronze.

Germany, who were fresh from a shock win over Sweden in the quarter-finals, went 3-0 and then 4-1 up in the game, as Canada looked unusually undisciplined. Willie Desjardins' team came on strong at the end, scoring twice and going all out, but Germany held on to reach their first final.

The German Foreign Office offered advice after the win:

GermanForeignOffice @GermanyDiplo

Travel advisory: Germans in Canada should exercise a high degree of empathy. Be nice, don’t gloat, give hugs, buy rounds of hot chocolate. Just imagine how you would feel if Canada beat us in soccer 😱 🇩🇪 ❤️ 🇨🇦 #CANGER @TeamD @CanadaFP @GermanyInCanada @KanadaBotschaft https://t.co/0HlHoxMA7E

It was a huge upset by the Germans who took advantage of Canadian penalties and sloppy play as well as taking their own chances when they came.


Norway secure quarter-final spot

Norway made it all the way to the quarter-finals for the first time after beating Slovenia 2-1, with Alexander Bonsaksen securing an overtime win.

Jan Urbas opened the scoring in a first-period powerplay, but Norway hit back in the third period as Tommy Kristiansen tapped home Martin Roymark's pass to force sudden-death.

The overtime period was fairly chaotic with net-minder Gasper Kroselj saving a shot from point-blank range, allowed a number of players to fight for the puck. The puck then fell to Bonsaksen to drill home, and he secured a memorable win for the Norwegians.


Russia beat Germany to gold in thrilling final

In the men's event, the Russian team secured a 4-2 overtime win over Germany in a classic. A dramatic climax saw Russian athlete Ilya Kovalchuk describe the match as "the craziest game ever," per the Guardian's Bryan Armen Graham.

The game was finely balanced at 1-1 with a little over six minutes remaining in the third period when Nikita Gusev fired home what looked like it might be the winner. However, Germany hit back straight away through Dominik Kahun and Jonas Muller to put Germany ahead. Russia Hockey showed how little time the team had left to respond:

Russia Hockey @russiahockey_en

03:16 on the clock and Jonas Muller beats Vasily Koshechkin....oh dear, it's 2:3. The puck went through our goalkeeper five hole. We have three minutes to respond!

The Russian team refused to be denied, and Kalinin Gusev struck his second to level it up and send the game into sudden-death overtime. James Ellingworth at the Associated Press showed just how close Germany had been to gold:

James Ellingworth @jellingworth

Gusev 3-3, Germans were 55 seconds away from the gold.

Kirill Kaprizov was then the hero for the Russia team as he fired in a superb golden goal to ensure glory for his team. The KHL showed how he celebrated the winner:

KHL @khl_eng

Hockey 101 by Kirill Kaprizov: how to celebrate the OT-winner in Olympics gold medal game. #PyeongChang2018 https://t.co/2vMAT1MYy5

It was a dramatic win for the Olympic Athletes from Russia team, but Germany must also take huge credit for the part they played in a nail-biting final.