While the men’s hockey team for Team USA were eliminated in their quarterfinal tilt with the Czech team at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, the game was a one-goal game and had to be decided in a shootout in which only one goal was scored. That’s about as hard as you can push and still lose.
The players will have their “I should have…” moments, but in the end they most definitely left it all on the ice. And their goaltender, Ryan Zapolski will perhaps wish to have the one shootout goal he let through back. Their head coach, Tony Granato, wants them to hold their heads up though. He couldn’t say enough about what they accomplished in such a short amount of time.
“Proud. We asked a lot of them. We asked a lot of this group. They came together from all different directions; all different points of their career with one goal,” Granato said after the loss. “And that goal was to make Jimmy Johansson proud, make USA Hockey proud, and represent the United States of America like we always do when we play hockey and play in tournaments and put our jersey on. And they did that. They left it on the ice. They played great teams.”
Many of the other teams were on a more even playing field in regard to their experience and familiarity with each other. Team USA was able to get to the Quarterfinals. When they took on the Russians, the only team they lost to in regulation, they gave up the fewest goals of any team that the Russians beat, which includes Team Norway whom the Russians eliminated in the second quarterfinal of the day.
“A lot of people weren’t happy with our Russian game because we lost four to nothing. We went stride for stride with that team. That might be the best team in the world right now,” Granato continued. “And we’ve got a bunch of college kids and guys that are playing professional in Europe and minor league players that did that because they’re American players that have pride in putting that sweater on. So, every one of them should be proud of everything they did here to represent us the way we wanted to be represented.”
With the exception of a period of time in the middle frame when the Czechs had the Americans on their heels, the game between the two was as evenly matched as you could get. Neither capitalized on the power plays, and even in the shootout, it was just a single goal in the shootout of the five they put on Zapolski.
And when the inevitable question came about did Coach Granato ever wonder how it would have gone if he had NHL players to coach, his answer was emphatic.
“No. We had 25 players here that was a team that was built to represent our country the way it was represented: Play hard, compete, leave it on the ice, represent us that way. We did that. So, we have a lot to be proud of,” he stated.