GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) Ryan Donato scored two power-play goals and Troy Terry dominated with his speed as college players led the United States to an important 2-1 victory over Slovakia on Friday at the Olympics.
Donato, who plays for his father Ted at Harvard, delivered the kind of offense USA Hockey wanted when it picked four NCAA players for its no-NHL Olympic roster. Donato, Terry, fellow college star Jordan Greenway and American Hockey League scoring star Chris Bourque were all additions to the U.S. after the pre-Olympic Deutschland Cup in November, during which the U.S. struggled to score, particularly against Slovakia goaltender Jan Laco.
”Life comes at you fast,” Donato said. ”Coming in I don’t know if I saw myself in that role, but now that I’m here and kind of in that role, it’s building up guys like me, Troy and Jordan, our confidence, and hopefully it’ll continue to grow and hopefully help the team in a more major, impactful way.”
Laco was on top of his game, stopping 29 of the 31 shots he faced. Only this time, the Americans’ young skill that coach Tony Granato hoped would bring energy and spark the team came through.
”They’re great players,” captain Brian Gionta said. ”They’re a big part of this team, like coach said early on leading into the tournament that they were going to be a big part, and they are.”
Goalie Ryan Zapolski made 21 saves for his first Olympic victory, which is crucial considering only the top four of 12 teams avoid the qualification round Monday. With the regulation win, the U.S. vaults to the top of Group B with four points. Slovakia was second with three, followed by Slovenia and Russia.
The U.S. faces Russia in each team’s final preliminary-round game Saturday night.
The Americans didn’t have a shot on net until six-plus minutes into the game when defenseman Noah Welch finally got the puck to Laco.
All it took to get the U.S. offense going was a Slovakia penalty that gave Terry and Donato some room to operate. Terry sped through the offensive zone and took two Slovakia defenders with him, dropping the puck to a wide-open Donato for his first power-play goal of the game to put the U.S. up 1-0 at 7:10.
”We thought we could use our speed was kind of our game plan and make it a track meet, and that bodes well for the young college guys because we’ve got a lot of speed up front,” Terry said. ”Donato with two goals, Greenway played well. We just used our speed and it’s kind of our team identity is team speed.”
Just 25 seconds later, Andrej Kudrna scored on a tip of a Tomas Surovy shot that slipped under Zapolski’s right arm for a tying goal the 31-year-old goalie probably wants back.
Bobby Butler had a semi-breakaway late in the first and Laco got his blocker on it. A couple of second-period power plays yielded offensive-zone time but not a goal, and a borderline goalie interference penalty on Boston University’s Greenway made penalty killers work hard to keep it tied.
After a too many men on the ice call on Slovakia, Bourque, another son of a former NHL player, fed Donato, who spun around in front and went five-hole on Laco to score the game-winning goal with 17:09 left.
”The power play there was a key cog in that victory,” said Bourque, who had two assists. ”You just want to chip in whenever possible.”
NOTES: F Chad Kolarik made his Olympic debut, replacing veteran Jim Slater in the U.S. lineup. … David Leggio backed up Zapolski with Brandon Maxwell scratched. … Notre Dame D Will Borgen was a healthy scratch for the second consecutive game.
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