Olympics and WILD provide action

Marc Elliott

LARSMONT – The USA men’s hockey team has just concluded its game against Team Germany and earned a 3-2 win over the hard-working German club.
The Germans scored first before the USA tied the tilt at one each on a tally by Steve Kampfer. (KHL) Team USA would take the lead in the second frame on a goal by Matt Knies (UofMN) and that was the only scoring of the period.
The U.S. would take a two-goal lead on a tally by Nathan Smith (MN State-MKT) which would be cut in half when Germany’s Tom Kuhnhackel scored late in the frame. The U.S. would hold on to win and has earned a bye going into the medal round.
The USA team took first place in Group A and was the top finisher overall with a 3-0 record in the preliminary round.
The other teams getting a bye into the medal round were the Russian Olympic Committee team along with Finland and Sweden.
In their other two games played the USA bested Team Canada Friday night by a 4-2 final and took down Team China by an 8-0 score.
A great deal of the American’s win against Canada was based on team speed. At least in that game the Canadian club looked like a team built for the physical component of hockey while the American’s played a very fast-paced game.
Eight teams will play one more game to determine the other four entrants into the medal round. They will feature Slovakia vs. Germany followed by Denmark and Latvia. Czechs meets the Swiss club and finally Canada will match up with China.
My pre-tournament thought on the USA having a big challenge in front of them to even medal has changed somewhat. That’s primarily due to seeing that with the NHL having pulled out of the games I wasn’t sure what the USA could do at that point.
I studied the rosters of several teams and I believe the U.S. team is the youngest in Beijing. But I have been pleasantly surprised.
I felt the Canadians would be better than they have shown but was still unsure if they could medal. The Czechs beat the pre-tourney favorite ROC team in OT and as of this moment it has turned into anyone’s tourney to win.
Since my hockey superstitions are fully engaged, I won’t speculate on what I think will happen in the Men’s Medal round. You know where my allegiance lies though. Let’s go boys!
SURE IT’S KIND OF predictable but the Women’s part of the Olympic Ice Hockey tourney is one game and one USA victory from hosting another meeting with Team Canada for the Women’s Gold Medal.
All that is standing between that is Team Finland, who the USA will meet in the Women’s semifinals in about 10 hours from right now. I am looking forward to this matchup.
Team USA has beaten the Finns once already in the tourney (5-2) but it wasn’t a “gimme” type of game. The Finn’s came to play, especially their netminder. Finnish goalie Anni Kiesala saw 52 American shots in this tilt and stopped 47.
Against the ROC team the Yanks launched 62 shots on goal. (5-0 win) Versus the Swiss club (8-0 win) the shots tallied up at 66. In their only loss (2-4) of the tourney so far against Team Canada the USA took 53 shots and held the Canadians to 27. In its 4-1 win over Czechia the team took 59 shots. That has worked in the American’s favor thus far but I did take a look at the shot charts to see if anything was evident. This team takes a LOT of shots on goal. At least 20% of these shots per game are from low percentage shooting areas. Would they be better off peeling back and working for another opportunity in a high percentage position or does the “any shot is a good shot” theory prevail? It didn’t work against the Canadians and as for my thoughts on that; I’d prefer the shooters to be more selective.

The Canadians are halfway through their semifinal game with the Swiss team and lead 7-3. So I’d be pretty surprised if the Americans don’t get past the Finns in the morning and make it a Canada-USA Final one more time. Who takes that match?
If the Americans can be more selective and patient and finish their shots they will defend their Gold Medals. They outplayed Canada in the preliminary round.
I am hopeful that when you see this story that TEAM USA and you will be smiling because they will have repeated as Olympic Champions. I can’t wait!

THE MINNESOTA WILD played twice in the last calendar week going 1-1. In a not-too-good performance they lost to the Jets at The Peg in a 2-0 shutout. The team’s pace was a bit off, and according to Head Coach Dean Evason every part of the team’s overall game was “off.”
In addition to that the team lost Marcus Foligno to a two-game suspension from the league for kneeing Adam Lowry during the second dustup of the night between the two combatants. Foligno will be able to rejoin the team for a game Wednesday evening. In Winnipeg.
Yup. I’m hoping the boys will have just stuck to hockey.
What happened in the Jets tilt was a continuation of some troubles that occurred during an Oct. 19 game between the two teams.
Is it settled yet? Probably not. The outcome of this game was ugly and dismaying in that it was also the first game of the second half of the regular season. Not how you would want to start out. But then...
Saturday night on West 7th Street in St. Paul the WILD took on the Carolina Hurricanes. Coming into this game I was wary of how the WILD would do. It wasn’t too long back that the club had losing records against the top 10 and top 16 teams respectively.
I’m happy to say the team has whittled away at that. In mid-January the team was 4-6 vs. the top 10 and 8-8 against the top 16 (check new WILD data at the end of this story).
The team has been playing some great hockey though lately going 8-1-1 in their L10.
This streak has brought the team into the top five in many NHL power rankings. The Canes are right there too. This game promised to be intense. It was. And the WILD won by a 3-2 final score. PEACE