There was very short notice for our Maverick olympians between the time they got the news they would be joining Team USA’s ice hockey team and their flight to Beijing, but Mike Hastings and Nathan Smith made themselves comfortable with three games this past weekend. The team got drawn into group A for this preliminary round, which granted them matches against China, Canada, and Germany coming into the Olympics.
The U.S. men’s olympic hockey team completed their group stage matches this past week starting on Thursday morning against host country China, went on to compete against Canada Saturday night, and then played Germany Sunday morning.
The team first battled with the host country where team USA brought a lights-out attack on offense and a stone wall defense into the first game. USA scored eight goals to China’s none in the game, with Drew Commesso recording a 29-save shutout.
Sean Farrell highlighted the team’s scoring by putting up five points, which included three goals and two assists. Minnesota State Junior center Nathan Smith nearly got team USA on the board first in game one, ripping a shot on an early man advantage but it was saved in tight by the Chinese netminder.
Smith recorded two shots in 10:24 on the ice, while also gaining a plus one in the plus-minus category in his Olympic debut.
The U.S. then went on to face rival country Canada in their second game of the prelims, where team USA took down their rival 4-2. Team USA went with a switch in netminders for game two, relying on Strauss Mann in the blue paint.
Mann collected 35 saves in the game on 37 shots. Andy Miele was the player of the game for the United States, as he had a goal and an assist in the victory.
Smith made a slightly bigger impact in the game versus Canada during a second period chase down of the Canadian goaltender. The puck was sent in deep into the Canadians’ zone with Smith chasing the puck.
The junior was able to knock the puck off the netminder’s stick as he corralled it behind the net to force a turnover. USA teammate Nick Shore quickly came in to collect the loose puck and delivered a pass into the slot for Brendan Brisson who backhanded the puck home to give team USA a 3-1 lead.
Despite the one big play Smith recorded 10:42 on ice with one shot on goal against Canada. Team USA then moved on to Germany Sunday morning where they finished out the preliminary round of the group stage undefeated at 3-0. The Americans defeated the Germans 3-2 in their closest game of the Olympics yet.
Smith made his presence known in this one, finally getting on the board in the third period to give the Americans a two-goal lead with 17 minutes remaining in the game. Smith’s goal proved to be pivotal, as it counted as the game winning goal.
The U.S. forced a German turnover on the forecheck to help Nick Abruzzese find Smith in the slot. Smith then sent the puck flying past the German goaltender on his backhand to give the U.S. a 3-1 advantage. With Smith’s goal he became the first Florida native to score a goal in the Olympic Winter Games and just the second Floridan ever to play in an Olympic game.
The Germans later responded with a goal of their own but were not able to find another, giving team USA a 3-2 victory to go undefeated in group A.
Up next for the red, white, and blue is the winner of the Slovakia-Germany game on Feb. 16 in China during the quarterfinal round. The game will be televised on the USA Network at 10:10 p.m. CT on Feb. 15 due to time zone differences.
Write to Kole Buelow at email@example.com.