Olympics|The U.S. beats Germany to finish the men’s hockey preliminary round with a 3-0 record.
First, the United States’ men’s hockey team steamrollered China. Then the Americans streaked past the Canadians. On Sunday night, they won a chaotic, rollicking matchup against the Germans, 3-2, and closed the preliminary round with a perfect record at the Beijing Games.
They have mastered the Olympics so far by delivering on what the team’s general manager promised when he announced the roster: “speed, tenacity, aggressiveness.”
And it all poured forth in a game on Sunday that was not a festival of sportsmanship, but a throwback bout of slashing, holding and high sticking — the officials assessed 14 penalty minutes, most of them against the Americans, before the first period was even halfway over — and expletive-laden eruptions audible to just about all in the sparsely populated arena.
Men’s Prelim. Round – Group A
“Germany’s a good team,” said Nathan Smith, a forward for the United States. “They played fast, they played physical. We just tried to match that.”
The Americans and Germans got around to scoring, too, and the points and penalties were oftentimes connected to one another.
A goal off a nifty pivot by Patrick Hager, the left winger who helped lead Germany to the silver medal at the 2018 Games, just two minutes into the game came during a power play and left the Americans trailing early for the second consecutive game.
Three penalties later, though, Steven Kampfer evened the score for the United States with a power-play goal of his own, a screaming, sailing shot from just inside the attacking zone.
It was not until there were about 15 minutes to play in the second period that someone managed a goal when a rival was not trapped in the penalty box. Nick Abruzzese, sliding behind the net, tapped the puck toward the crease toward Matthew Knies, who scored. The officials upheld the goal after a German challenge. (The failed strategy led to — what else? — a delay-of-game penalty.)
The Americans built on their advantage early in the third, when Smith spun and scored after Abruzzese intercepted a German pass.
Germany pressed its own attack late, though, and scored with about two and a half minutes to play, when Tom Kuhnhackl made a try from just outside the crease to narrow the margin.
The win gave the United States, which has its youngest team at an Olympic Games since 1994, the best record in Group A and ensured it a spot in a quarterfinal game on Wednesday.
Being a young team, Smith said, the Americans “just try to use our speed and play to our style, and I think that’s been working for us so far.”
The Americans last had a perfect record in preliminary-round play at the 2014 Games, although one of those victories required a shootout to secure. The Americans went on to finish fourth in that tournament. They captured a silver medal in 2010, when they amassed a 3-0 preliminary-round record in regulation.