The United States played its final preliminary tilt of the men’s Olympic hockey tournament Sunday morning hoping to earn the No. 1 seed for the playoffs. It didn’t come easy, but the Americans picked up the big 3-2 win over a gutsy German team to stay unbeaten at the Games.
While the U.S. ended up getting the win, it was the Germans who struck first after Patrick Hager netted a power-play marker just two minutes into the game. The Americans responded quickly, though. Just 2:26 after Hager’s ice-breaker, Steven Kampfer tied the game with a blast from the point for a power-play goal of his own.
Both teams went into the first intermission tied at one goal apiece, but it didn’t take the U.S. long to break the tie in the middle period. At the frame’s 4:50 mark with chaos in front of the German net, Matt Knies picked up a loose puck in front and roofed it to give the Americans their first lead of the game.
Team USA on top! 2-1 early in period 2.
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) February 13, 2022
The Americans began the third period on a fresh two-minute power play. They couldn’t convert on it, but it only took them 47 seconds after the advantage expired to extend their lead. Following a German turnover in their own zone, Nathan Smith backhanded a loose puck through Danny aus den Birken‘s five-hole, giving the U.S. a 3-1 advantage. The Americans had their backs up against the wall late in the third period after Tom Kuhnhackl cut the U.S. lead in half, but thanks to some crucial blocked shots, they hung on to earn the win.
Never a dull moment for U.S. hockey.
After earning a shutout in his Olympic debut, goaltender Drew Commesso was solid in net for the Americans. He stopped 24 of 26 German shots to earn his second win of the tournament. The 19-year-old may be young, but he’s been a steady backstop thus far in his two starts.
Penalties were one of the big stories of this game. There were eight total penalties assessed, and the U.S. penalty kill, despite giving up an early goal on the man advantage, did an outstanding job of keeping the Germany power play in check. The U.S. ended the tilt successfully killing three of Germany’s four power plays, and their strong short-handed play ended up playing a crucial role in the victory.
With the win, the Americans successfully clinched the No. 1 seed for Group A heading into the playoffs and earned a bye in the elimination round to advance directly to the quarterfinals. It’s still unclear who the U.S. will take on in their first playoff game.