The United States lost the battle but won the war Tuesday, falling to Slovakia 3-2 in overtime but still advancing to the quarterfinals of the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in St. Petersburg, Russia.
The U.S. entered the game needing to scrounge one point by forcing overtime to move into Thursday’s quarterfinal round, but found itself down at the first intermission on a goal by Christian Jaros at 18:39. Ramping up their urgency, the Americans drew even at 27:15 when David Warsofsky’s pass from the left point found Brock Nelson near the right post, and he flicked the puck in for a 1-1 score.
The aggressiveness of the Americans, the youngest U.S. team ever at a worlds with an average age of 23, showed over the last 12 minutes of the period in the form of three penalties. Chris Wideman, Frank Vatrano and Nick Foligno spent time in the penalty box hoping the U.S. penalty killing would keep them in the game.
Foligno gave the U.S. some breathing room in the third period, pushing a loose puck into the crease hoping for something good to happen. It did when defenseman Jaros kicked it under the pads of Slovakian goalkeeper Julius Hudacek for a 2-1 American lead at 42:53.
That amounted to a two-goal deficit for the Slovakians, who needed the three points provided by a regulation win to vault over the U.S. and into the quarterfinal round. They got one goal back when an attempt by Dominik Granak deflected off Tomas Marcinko and Pavol Skalicky to slip past U.S. goalkeeper Keith Kinkaid and even the game at 2-2 with less than eight minutes to play.
Slovakia was unable to find the third goal it needed until the overtime period, when Marko Dano scored just 59 seconds into the extra time.
Closing out preliminary play with a 3-4 record and placing fourth in Group B, the U.S. now must travel to Moscow. It will face the Czech Republic in a rematch of last year’s bronze-medal game, won by the United States 3-0 on Czech home ice in Prague. Since quarterfinal rounds were introduced to the world championship format in 1992, the U.S. has failed to appear in them twice, in 2003 and 2010.