Oh so close, but oh so far.
When Bobby Butler’s last-chance shot banked off Czech goalie Pavel Francouz’s stick hand as the last shooter in the U.S.-Czech Republic quarterfinal shootout, so did the hopes of the U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team.
Thanks to Petr Koukla scoring as the second shooter in the shootout, Czech Republic eliminated Team USA in a 3-2 quarterfinal at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, ending the run of outstanding performances by U.S. collegiate players Ryan Donato and Troy Terry, who were setting historic scoring paces.
Team USA missed the semifinal round for the first time since 2006 in the first tournament without current NHL players since 1998.
The well-rested Czech team had three days off since its last game, while Team USA was playing less than 24 hours after a 5-1 win against Slovakia at the same Gangneung Hockey Centre.
Terry, a junior from the University of Denver who tied a U.S. Olympic record with three assists in one period against Slovakia on Tuesday, set up Donato for the second straight game to open the scoring against Francouz 6:20 into the game.
Donato, a 21-year-old junior at Harvard, put the U.S. on top with his tournament-leading fifth goal after nearly being put into the U.S bench by Czech forward Jiri Sekac. Play continued into the Czech zone and Terry peeled back with a drop pass for Donato, who beat Francouz.
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Donato is one of just four U.S. players to score at least five goals in a single Olympic tournament, joining Brian Rolston (seven in 1994), John LeClair (six in 2002) and Phil Kessel (five in 2014).
He is the first Team USA player to have two two-goal games in the same Olympic tournament since Brian Rafalski in 2010.
Czech defenseman Jan Kolar tied the game on a left point blast with 4:48 left in the first period after Brian Gionta lost a faceoff to Kolar. Ryan Zapolski is the first U.S. goaltender since Ryan Miller in 2010 to start the first five games of an Olympic tournament.
A Donato shot shortly after a Czech power play expired at the beginning of the second period ended a 12-minute shot drought for the U.S., including a Team USA power play near the end of the opening period.
To make it tougher on Zapolski, who was brilliant in the first period, Team USA had to kill off three Czech power plays in the middle period.
Defenseman Tomas Kundratek hit a blast from the left point that beat Zapolski to put the Czech Republic on top 2-1 on the same zone attack after their third straight power play 8:14 into the second period.
Jim Slater scored on a short-handed breakaway from a feed by Brian O’Neill along the boards to tie the game 2-2 with 9:37 left in the second. Slater deposited the puck to the far side of Francouz, who had only seen just two shots in the previous 19 minutes.
In the shooutout, Zapolski stopped Martin Ruzicka, but Francouz stopped Chris Bourque. Koukla scored for the Czechs, and then Donato deked his way in but could not get it past Francouz’s outstretched left leg. Kolar got stopped by Zapolski, but Francouz stopped Mark Arcobello. Zapolski stopped Dominik Kubalik, but Terry couldn’t put it past the right leg of Francouz. Kundratek gave a head fake, but Zapolski stopped before Butler’s shot was sent wide.
Team USA was outshot 28-20 during regulation and overtime.
Gary R. Blockus is a journalist from Allentown, Pennsylvania who has covered multiple Olympic Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.
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