The United States men's hockey team opens its knockout round action at the 2022 Winter Olympics late on Tuesday night.
The Americans will face Slovakia in the first of four quarterfinal matches set to take place over the next 24 hours.
United States topped the 12-team rankings from the group stage to earn the No. 1 seed for the knockout round.
The Americans won Group A with victories over Canada, Germany and China. They avoided a rematch with Germany after it was eliminated by Slovakia in the playoff round.
Slovakia poses a difficult threat to the Americans because of its scoring potential. It put four goals past Germany in the last round and it has one of the competition's leading scorers on its roster.
USA vs. Slovakia Info
Date: Tuesday, February 15
Start Time: 11 p.m. ET
TV: USA Network
Live Stream: NBCOlympics.com and Peacock
Puck Line: United States (-1.5)
Money Line: United States (-230; bet $230 to win $100); Slovakia (+185; bet $100 to win $185)
No one was sure what to expect from the United States squad without any NHL players on the roster.
The Americans were the pleasant surprise of the group stage, as they won all three games and took over the No. 1 seed in the knockout round bracket.
The United States avoided the Russian Olympic Committee and Finland on the top side of the bracket. They will only face either side in the final if they keep winning.
The easiest possible matchup was drawn for the quarterfinal round against Slovakia. For example, Sweden and Canada, two hockey powerhouses, face off in the other quarterfinal in the top half of the bracket.
Slovakia will not be a pushover, but it is an easier foe than any of the traditional powers.
Slovakia advanced to the final eight by beating Germany by a 4-0 score on Tuesday morning in the playoff round. It faces a 24-hour turnaround to play the United States.
The No. 8 seed boasts one of the top scorers in the tournament in Juraj Slafkovsky, but he did not score one of the four goals in the playoff round.
Slafkovsky was responsible for four goals in the group stage and he should be the No. 1 target of the American defense.
The Americans would likely rather contain Slafkovsky and let the other players beat them than have the joint top scorer in the competition thrive in the attacking zone.
The United States will rely on Sean Farrell and Ben Meyers to jumpstart their attacking play. Farrell finished the group stage with three goals and three assists. Meyers had two scores and a pair of handouts.
A decision needs to be made in net by the Americans. Strauss Mann started one game in the knockout round and Drew Commesso picked up two victories while earning a 1.00 goals against average.
Commesso was the better of the two goalies in the group stage and the Boston University player should be rewarded for his success.
The other question for the Americans is the status of defenseman Jake Sanderson, who was on the ice at practice on Monday, per Stephen Whyno of the Associated Press. Sanderson was injured in the second group game against Canada.
The American defense allowed just four goals in the group stage and it allowed the team to have the highest goal differential at plus-11.
As long as the United States slow down Slafkovsky and the top Slovakian attackers, they should move one step away from the gold-medal game.
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